Friday, 27 April 2012

Birthday Black Bean Chocolate Cake with Coconut Meringue Frosting & Passion Fruit Curd

It was my birthday on Tuesday and I turned 25. Yikes, I feel like I’m getting old! I still remember turning 16 and feeling that was so grown up, but that was now nearly 10 years ago – scary!

I had been thinking through various different cake options to bake for my birthday and had almost settled on a carrot cake concoction, when I saw a recipe for black bean chocolate cake that just grabbed my attention completely and blew all other cake options out the water. I’d heard of black bean brownies, but never seen them used in a cake before. The cake looked so rich and decadent and was naturally gluten free as the beans replaced all the flour! I had found my birthday cake!

I had the cake layers for my birthday cake but still needed to decide on what to pair with it – chocolate, coffee, peanut butter, vanilla, caramel, cherries…I then remembered I had a jar of passion fruit curd sitting in the cupboard that my aunt had bought back from France for me. The idea of the sharp fruity passion fruit against the chocolate cake really appealed to me. Staying on the tropical theme I decided to make a simple meringue frosting, flavoured and decorated with coconut to give it twist.

Half way through making the beany cake layers I was a little unsure how they would turn out. After blitzing the beans with the eggs and sugar it smelt distinctly savoury and earthy and not at all like a sweet chocolate cake. I decided to press on anyway and by the end of the mixing process a delicious rich chocolate fluffy batter had been created that resembled soft chocolate mousse. It looked much more appealing and the raw batter tasted wonderful, no hint of beans!

Once baked, cooled and assembled I was really pleased with how the cake turned out. I loved the contrast between the dark cake and the snow white frosting. The flavours were also wonderfully contrasting. Rich chocolate cake, sharp and tangy passion fruit curd and then super sweet coconut meringue.

The cake was dense in texture, but deliciously moist. A cross between a brownie and flourless chocolate cake. I didn’t tell anyone what the secret ingredient was and tried to make them guess. No one did until I started giving them huge hints, but everyone agreed it was delicious. I’ll certainly make the cake layers again, maybe pairing them with raspberries or cherries next time, or a bitter coffee ganache for an extra indulgent adult dessert!

You may well be sceptical about adding beans to your cake, but give it a go and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake with Coconut Meringue Frosting & Passion Fruit Curd
Recipe adapted from Chocolate and Carrots blog
Black Bean Chocolate Cake
1 400g can black beans (240g drained weight)
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
60g butter
155g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Coconut Meringue Frosting
1 egg white
100g caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp coconut extract
25ml water (or coconut water)

To Assemble
2 tbsp passion fruit curd (or any other curd of your choice)
2 tbsp desiccated coconut

Black Bean Chocolate Cake
Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease and line the base of two 6 inch round cake tins.
Drain and rinse the black beans under running water. Place into a food processor along with 2 eggs, vanilla and the sugar. Blitz until well combined and the beans are broken down. Scrape down the sides once or twice if necessary. There will be a few tiny bits of bean skin visible, but this is fine.
Make sure your butter is soft, and then blitz into the bean mixture, followed by the two eggs. It will split, but don’t worry.
In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add to the bean mixture and blitz again to incorporate. It should turn wonderfully chocolaty, thick and mousse-like in consistency.
Divide the batter between the cake tins and bake for 25-35 minutes. They will be risen and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tins, by which time they will relax and sink down to form an even layer. Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

Coconut Meringue Frosting
Heat a pan filled with about 2 inches of water over a low heat, until it just comes to a simmer. Lightly whisk all the ingredients, expect the coconut extract together in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over the top of the saucepan (it shouldn’t touch the water) and whisk continuously until the mixture reaches 160F/75C on a sugar thermometer. It should have turned white by this stage.
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the mixture vigorously with an electric mixer until thick, glossy and tripled in volume. It should feel cool to the touch and will take 4-5 minutes.
Whisk in the coconut extract.
Use immediately, as it will harden if left.

To Assemble
Place one cake layer on a serving place and spread over the passion fruit curd. Blob on some of the meringue frosting and spread out into an even layer.
Top with the second cake layer and use the rest of the frosting to ice the top of the cake.
Toast the desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan until lightly golden and then scatter over the top of the cake to decorate.
Leave to set for 30minutes before serving.
Best eaten within 2 days, after which the meringue frosting starts to break down.
Makes 1 x 6inch cake

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Montezuma’s Monkey Bars – Review

Montezuma’s is a family owned British chocolate company. They have recently launched 5 new ‘Monkey Bars’ to celebrate the best of British and the upcoming Royal Jubilee and Olympics. These Monkey Bars are not your typical bars of chocolate.

To start with, their packaging is decorated with iconic images of Britain/London, such as London taxis, The Houses of Parliament, Welsh Dragon and The London Eye. Montezuma’s has also had a bit of fun with the names, using the eccentric English Cockney rhyming slang to give each of the 5 bars its own unique name! Adam & Eve (Believe), Airs & Graces (Races), Daisy Roots (Boots), Nanny Goat (Boat) and Shake & Shiver (River). Hehe.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I recently opened the door to be presented with a package from Montezuma’s, containing two of their new Monkey Bars to try! I had no idea they were coming and so it was a lovely surprise. What was even more of a surprise was the whopping size of the bars. These are not your average 100g bars of chocolate – oh no. Each bar weights half a kilo – 500g of thick chocolate and it’s larger than an iPad – I couldn’t ‘adam and eve my apple pies’ (believe my eyes)!

The bar is formed into squares just like a regular bar of chocolate, only each square is incredibly thick and weighs an impressive 33g! That’s about a third of a standard bar in each square! Yikes!

Just look at the size difference! I was sent Nanny Goat (milk chocolate with salted peanuts and butterscotch) and Shake & Shiver (Dark chocolate with peppermint and cocoa nibs).

My chocolate preference is always for dark chocolate and so I loved Shake & Shiver. The dark chocolate was of a good quality, rich and slightly bitter thanks to the little nibs of coco bean scattered throughout. The peppermint flavour was apparent, but not overpowering or unnatural tasting. I also liked how the slight crunch came from the cocoa nibs rather than lumps of sugar. So many companies seem to put sugar crystals into mint chocolate and I can’t stand crunching down on a raw lump of sugar, so bonus points to Montezuma’s. The perfect bar to bring out after dinner when you want something ‘minty’

The Nanny Goat bar unfortunately contained ‘wheat syrup’ which after a discussion with the Montezuma’s team I was advised not to eat, which was a shame, but the rest of my family were more than happy to taste (devour) the bar on my behalf. I am told the chocolate was ‘creamy with a good flavour’ and found it had a much higher cocoa content than most standard milk chocolates. The tasters also thought ‘the mix of salty nuts and sweet butterscotch really went well together’

Thank you Montezuma’s for making me smile with unexpected chocolate goodies. The bars would certainly be ‘Robin Hood’ (good) at friend and family gatherings. You could try eating a whole bar yourself, but you’d probably want to do a few runs up the ‘apple and pears’ (stairs) afterwards!

Click to see more examples of Cockney rhyming slang words

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Cake Slice April 2012: Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Bundt Pound Cake

This months cake was a simple yet delicious Bundt cake. I was pleased about this as sometimes I just fancy a nice slice of cake, delicately flavoured and not piled high with mountains of icing. This was a simple pound cake, lightly flavoured with spices with just a hint of orange zest, and a middle layer of cinnamon and cardamom spiced streusel crumbs.

Although my Bundt cake didn’t come out of the pan cleanly – it broke in the middle where all the yummy streusel crumbs were (I blame it being gluten free which made it more delicate to handle) - it was undoubtedly delicious.

In the original recipe the cake contained a little orange and cardamom, while the streusel contained cinnamon. As I adore spices I used both cardamom and cinnamon in the cake and streusel, which made for a lovely spice combination. The spices were still quite subtle as only ¼ teaspoon is used of each. I was pleasantly surprised how well the orange zest came though, as it was only a tiny amount, and how well it complimented the spices. It ended up giving the cake quite a Middle Eastern flavour.

The cake was also very soft and moist with quite a close textured crumb, thanks to the buttermilk. I didn’t need a big cake this month and so only made half the recipe and baked it in a slightly smaller Bundt pan. I was disappointed the top part of my cake got stuck in the pan, making for a slightly ‘crumbling castle’ look of a cake, but the taste more than made up for its appearance. Note to self, always grease your Bundt tin thoroughly!

My favourite part was the spiced streusel layer, but it was a wonderful cake all round. I think I might try baking it in a traditional round cake tin next time, and maybe adding an extra layer of the streusel crumbs on top. Yum!

Click here to see the blogroll to see how my fellow Cake Slice Bakers cakes turned out

Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Bundt Pound Cake
(Recipe adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Spiced Streusel
60g gluten free plain flour
70g light soft brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
40g butter

Buttermilk Pound Cake
290g gluten free plain flour
225g butter
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
400g caster sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
240ml buttermilk

Method – Streusel
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and spices. Melt the butter and pour over the flour. Mix together with a small spoon until you create small clumps of crumble-like topping. Set aside for later.

Method – Cake
Heat the oven to 170C. Thoroughly grease and flour a 10inch Bundt pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt and spices into a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add in the sugar, continuing to beat until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Mix in the vanilla and orange zest.
Add a third of flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk. Repeat the process until you have used all the flour and buttermilk, mixing well between each addition.
Spread half of the batter into the Bundt pan and smooth out. Scatter over the cinnamon streusel crumbs and top with remaining cake batter.
Bake for 65-75 minutes, until light and springy to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, before flipping over the removing from the tin.
Allow to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and serving.

Note: I halved this recipe and baked it in a 6½ inch Bundt pan for 55 minutes

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Individual Rhubarb and Ginger Cobblers

Tis the season for rhubarb! I love rhubarb. I love its pink colour, its funny name (roo-barrrrr-b), its vegetable confused fruitiness and above all its flavour.

The flavour of rhubarb is really quite unique. It’s sweet, sour and sharp all at the same time. A sort of cross between a grapefruit and a blackcurrant is that makes sense. You can cook rhubarb in a manner of ways and serve it with both sweet and savoury dishes, but my preference is always for sweet. I got some sticks of rhubarb over the weekend from someone in the village, who was selling it freshly picked from their own garden. After pondering what to do with it for a while, I decided to simply cook it and top it with a scone-like cobbler topping for a quick and tasty dessert.

I personally love my rhubarb baked in the oven so that it retains its shape, while the juices bubble away and intensify in flavour. I also like my fruit to be on the slightly sharp side of sweet. I admit it does need a little sugar, but I like to taste the fruits natural flavour first and then the sweetness to come later, rather than feel I’ve just eaten a spoonful of jam. Not everyone in my family agrees with me, my mum likes her fruit sweet and so we often disagree to the right level of sweetness, but the easiest thing to do it just to taste as you go along and adapt accordingly.

Rhubarb also pairs wonderfully with other flavours, strawberries, rose and ginger being my favourites (not all together though!) As strawberries are not in season, I went the ginger route by adding some sticky stem ginger and a little syrup to the rhubarb base and some ground ginger to the cobbler topping. This made for a lovely warming note to the pudding, with fiery little bursts of ginger heat every time I bit into a chunk of the stem ginger.

Delicious eaten hot, straight from the oven and served with lots of fresh custard!

Individual Rhubarb and Ginger Cobblers
7-8 sticks of rhubarb
1 large ball of stem ginger in syrup
2-4 tbsp caster sugar (adapt to taste)
4 tsp stem ginger syrup (from jar)

2 tbsp white teff flour*
2 tbsp brown rice flour*
1 tbsp gram/chickpea flour*
20g butter
100ml milk
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Heat oven to 200C.
Wash and chop the rhubarb into 1-2cm chunks, depending of thickness. Slice the ball of stem ginger into small pieces. Place the ginger and rhubarb into a small deep baking tray and scatter over the caster sugar.
Cover the top of the tray with foil and bake for 30minutes, until soft and juicy.
Divide the cooked rhubarb between 4 ramekins and drizzle over 1 teaspoon of ginger syrup over each, along with any of the rhubarb juices.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C and make the cobbler topping.
Measure out the flours, baking powder, sugar and spices into a small bowl. Make sure your butter is soft, but not melted, and then work into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.
Add the milk, a little at a time, until you have a thick batter consistency. It should resemble a thick pancake batter and hold its shape on a spoon. It’s ok to be a bit lumpy.
Spoon a couple of heaped teaspoonfuls of the batter over the top of the rhubarb (you shouldn’t cover the top completely).
Scatter over a little extra caster sugar and bake for 12-15 minutes until firm and lightly golden in colour and the rhubarb juices are bubbling up around the edges.
Allow to cool for 3 minutes before serving.
Eat hot with cream, custard of ice cream
Makes 4

*Note: If you don’t have all these flour you can substitute it with 5tbsp of your own flour mix or use plain flour if not making GF

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Allergy & Free From Show - Free Tickets!

Today I have something very special for you all. I am thrilled to offer all my readers free tickets to attend The Allergy & Free From Show 2012

This is being held on 18-20th May in London’s Olympia theatre and features a wide range of stalls, traders and small business specialising in all things free-from. This includes not only foods suitable for coeliacs and lactose intolerant people - wheat, gluten, dairy etc, but also products to help with other allergies linked to skin conditions, eczema, migraines, hay fever or asthma.

You will be able to browse, sample and buy different foods and products, attend seminars run by health professionals and watch cookery demos. This Allergy & Free From event is the UK’s largest show of its kind!

Tickets normally cost £7.50, or £10 on the day, but I am delighted to offer all my readers the opportunity to get free tickets to attend the event! Simply click on the following link to show you have come through my blog and fill in your details!

Many thanks to the organisers of The Allergy & Free From Show for their generosity! Click here to learn more about what’s on offer!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Zesty Red Grapefruit Cupcakes with Homemade Candied Grapefruit Zest

Last week at the market there was a vender selling five grapefruit for £1. I have recently grown quite fond of grapefruit, so naturally I couldn’t resist such a bargain. I wasn’t sure what variety they were, but they turned out to be red grapefruit – my favourite, as I find they are slightly sweeter and less acidic than the white variety. After munching through my first one I decided to bake with some of them. I’ve used grapefruit once before in baking, when making biscotti, and it was so fresh and zesty that I was keen to incorporate it again. This time I decided on cupcakes.

To make doubly sure the red grapefruit flavour came though, I used it to separately flavour four component parts of the cupcakes! Fresh zest in the cake, a red grapefruit frosting, a grapefruit syrup and some homemade candied red grapefruit zest for decoration! Grapefruit all the way!

The syrup was a by-product of making the candied grapefruit zest, which was actually surprisingly easy. It was simply a matter of simmering some fine shreds of zest in sugar syrup, before tossing them in some caster sugar and leaving them to dry. The sugar syrup the zest simmered in took on a wonderful golden colour and extremely zingy flavour from the oils released from the zest. It was so good I couldn’t resist drizzling a bit over the top of each of the cupcakes before I piped the frosting on. It also made the cakes lovely and moist. There was a bit leftover and it tasted fabulous drizzled over my porridge the following morning. I bet it would also be great with a cheesecake or other dessert.

The finished cupcakes were soft and tender and there was no mistaking the red grapefruit. It was so fresh and zingy and seemed to linger on my tongue, tingling away for about 10 minutes after I’d finished the cupcake. It helped keep the sweetness in check too. It’s much more powerful than orange or lemon and oh so fruity.

Grapefruit is rather an overlooked citrus fruit, but I urge you to give it a chance. Even if you’re not a fan of the fruit itself, try baking with the zest for a truly amazing zingy experience!

Zesty Red Grapefruit Cupcakes with Homemade Candied Grapefruit Zest
Red Grapefruit Cupcakes
130g gluten free self raising flour (I used Doves Farm blend)
130g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
Zest of ¼ red grapefruit

Red Grapefruit Frosting
130g unsalted butter
260g icing sugar
Zest of ¼ red grapefruit
30ml milk

Candied Red Grapefruit Zest
100ml water
100g caster sugar
Long strips of finely grated zest of 1 red grapefruit
50g extra caster sugar

Method - Candied Red Grapefruit Zest
Begin by making the candied grapefruit zest, as this needs time to dry.
Heat the water and 100g caster sugar together in a small pan, until the sugar has dissolved and bring to a simmer.
Take thin shreds off the outside of the grapefruit using a zester, rather than a grater, to create longer strips.
Place the zest in the hot sugar syrup and simmer for 20 minutes then remove from the heat.
Scatter the extra caster sugar onto a plate and use a fork to remove the zest from the syrup and place onto the sugar. Scatter more sugar on top and toss until well coated. Divide out so the zest is not all clumped together and leave to cool/set.
Pour the excess syrup into a jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Red Grapefruit Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 170C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
Make sure the butter is very soft. Place all the ingredients and eggs into a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Use the large ice cream scoop or tablespoon to divide the batter equally into each cupcake liner, filling quite full. Smooth out using a teaspoon.
Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly golden and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Drizzle over 1teaspoon of the saved grapefruit syrup onto the top of each cupcake. Leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting.

Red Grapefruit Frosting
Make sure you butter is at room temperature, or else heat it gently in the microwave until soft, but not melted. Beat together with the grapefruit zest, using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Switch to a spatula and add half the icing sugar and mix until incorporated.
Add the milk, beating until smooth, followed by the rest of the icing sugar.
Beat again with the electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Place the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a spiked edged nozzle. Pipe onto the top of the cupcakes in lots of little peaks.
Top with a few shreds of the candied grapefruit zest and serve.
Makes 12 cupcakes

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce & Salted Peanuts

Last week we suddenly experienced a mini heat wave. The sun was bright and shining and the temperature was in the low 20’s. Suddenly people everywhere were appearing in shorts and sandals, making the most of the unexpected weather. I love the feeling of stepping into the warm rays of sun, it seems to send a ripple along my arms and make me shiver – does anyone else experience this? Everything seems so much more cheery and content when the sun is shining. I even managed my first impromptu picnic of the year in Bedford park, which has to be a record!

The warm weather also brings about BBQ’s and ice cream. The latter is much more exciting for me and so I dusted off my ice cream maker and set to work. The one ice cream I always intended to make last year and never got round to was peanut butter ice cream and so naturally it was my first ice cream of choice.

I cheated slightly by using a pre-made custard as my base, you can of course make your own, but I was feeling impatient. To this I added copious amounts of crunchy peanut butter, for added texture and flavour and it was churning away in under 30 minutes.

Once softly set I had an impatient half hour wait while it chilled in the freezer until it became the perfect scoop consistency. In the meantime I made a simple chocolate sauce and crushed some salted peanuts to adorn my ice cream.

It turned out to be one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had! There was no mistaking the peanut butter! I find the flavour so satisfying and it lent a wonderfully rich and creamy mouthfeel. The little chunks of nut throughout adding a nice crunch, without being so big as to distract from the smoothness of the ice cream itself. The bitter dark chocolate ganache and the extra salty peanuts on top provided a wonderful sweet ‘n’ salty contrast. So simple yet completely delicious.

Sadly the weather didn’t last and it’s now gone back to being cold and dreary. They even have 6 inches of snow up North, talk about extremes! Hurry back sunshine!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce & Salted Peanuts
Peanut Butter Ice Cream
400g thick custard – homemade or shop bought
400ml whole milk
50g icing sugar
200g crunchy peanut butter

Chocolate Sauce
(This only makes a small amount as its best made fresh each time you want a scoop)
30g dark chocolate
2 tbsp double cream
Salted peanut to decorate

Set your ice cream to freeze*
Mix the custard (cold if homemade) milk and icing sugar together.
Place the peanut butter into a small bowl and heat ever so slightly in the microwave to soften it. You don’t want it to get hot.
Whisk the peanut butter into the custard base and pour into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufactures instructions. It should be thick and softly set when done, about 45 minutes.
Transfer the ice cream to a large container and place in the freezer to stiffen up for about 30minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chocolate sauce. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a small bowl along with the cream. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, until the cream just begins to bubble. Keep an eye on it though.
Allow the mixture to sit for a further 30seconds before stirring together to create a smooth glossy sauce.
Scoop your ice cream into serving bowls, drizzle over some of the chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of chopped salted peanuts.
Eat and enjoy in the sunshine
Makes 1 litre ice cream

* If you don’t have an ice cream maker, simply pour the ice cream mix into a plastic container and place in the freezer. Take it out every half and hour and give it a bit of a whisk to ensure an even freezing, until you’ve reached your desired consistency.