Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes vegan

Amazing, Almost Ambrosial Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up grumpy, feeling rickety, tired, and ancient. By late afternoon, however, I was quite cheery, even contemplating having a 10 minute solo dance party in my living room. This transformation was in large part thanks to a quick twenty minute yoga session and then, this plate of perfect cookies, alongside a cup of chamomile tea.

What does the perfect cookie taste like, you might ask? What does it feel like when you bite into it? How does it smell? Well, that of course may vary from person to person. To me, a perfect cookie is a chocolate cookie. It is filled with dark chocolate chips and possibly dotted with lightly toasted nuts. It is crisp on the top, bottom, and on its sides, but has a gooey centre. It has the distinct aroma and taste of rich cocoa, a hint of vanilla, and finally, the caramel-like taste of brown sugar. It looks like this:

If this sounds and looks like something you might like, then I suggest giving this recipe a shot! Oh and these cookies are completely vegan!

I will say, some people may find these cookies a bit sweet. The trouble is that the recipe requires at least this amount of sugar in order for the cookies to have a crispy exterior and a gooey centre. Moreover, these cookies, while undoubtedly sweet, were not unpleasantly so, to me (just to calibrate my palate/preferences, most North American milk chocolate tastes saccharine to me). Especially, when paired with some unsweetened coffee or tea to offset their sweetness and also, to compliment their crisp and gooey texture.

I sipped on some chamomile tea, made by brewing dried chamomile flowers from our garden, while I ate them.

I think a cup of coffee with these cookies would be great too!

If you want to give making the cookies a shot, hereโ€™s what you will need:

Ingredients:

100 g (about 1/2 cup) white sugar

100g (about 1/2 cup) dark brown sugar (if you want to use light brown sugar, use 125g of it and then, reduce the white sugar by 25 g)

112g (about 1/2 cup) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use real vanilla extract, but imitation vanilla extract should work fine in foods treated to relatively high temperatures)

125 g (about 1 cup) all purpose flour

60 g cocoa (about 2/3 cup) (use the best cocoa you have as the better it tastes, the better your cookie will taste)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 pinches of salt

1-2 tablespoons of almond milk

2 handfuls of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chop up a bar of your favourite vegan dark chocolate) (you can add less or more, per your preference)

2 handfuls of walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted (toast them in a frying pan until slightly browned and fragrant)

Equipment:

Stand mixer, handheld mixer, or a whisk and strong arms

2 large bowls

1 sieve

A weighing scale or measuring cup

A teaspoon

A baking tray

Some parchment paper

An oven

Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar (i.e. beat them together in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer/eggbeater or whisk) until they form a creamy, thick, pale yellow mixture.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and continue beating the mixture until the extract is incorporated into it.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients into a second bowl (flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt).
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix them altogether with your hands. It will seem like a thick dough. Add in a tablespoon of almond milk and mix it in. If the dough still seems very dry, add in another spoon of the milk.
  5. Toss in the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix them in.
  6. Roll the dough into individual little balls. (I got about 14).
  7. You can bake them all on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (ideally unbleached and compostable) at 350 F for about 12 minutes or so. The cookies are ready when they are slightly firmed up on their sides. They will still seem soft in the centre, but will firm up in about 10 minutes if you just let them cool on the tray.
  8. Alternatively, flash freeze the dough balls in the freezer (i.e. freeze them on a tray or plate) for about 2-3 hours, and once they have frozen, throw them into a freezer ziplock bag and then the freezer. This way, you can pop your head into the freezer and grab some dough whenever you want a fresh cookie! If you choose this route, bake the frozen dough balls directly, without defrosting them, at 350F, but for about 3 minutes longer.
  9. The only problem with the freezing method is that it isnโ€™t very energy-efficient because it involves heating up the oven multiple times. What weโ€™ve been trying to do in our home is to bake various different things in the oven at the same time. For instance, one can also toast bread at 350F. Alternatively, we heat up the oven to 350F, bake the cookies, and then increase the oven temperature to a higher temperature to bake other things, like bread, for example.
  10. Whatever method you choose, I recommend enjoying your warm cookies with a glass of milk, coffee, or tea!
Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

The Hazelnuttiest Cake in the World

My very first post on this blog was about a Nutella cake. While baking that cake, I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book, ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’, as a guide. I really liked that cake, as is evident from my post about it, but there was one thing about it that bothered me. I didn’t like the fact that the cake called for Nutella, which is after all a processed food from the supermarket. I’d rather make a cake from scratch, or as close to from scratch as is possible for someone who lives in a little apartment in a big city. That way, I have a little more control over what goes into it. Last week, I tried making a more ‘wholesome’ and ‘homemade’ option as it were, based off a recipe from ‘Baking Illustrated’.

How did it turn out you ask? Well see for yourself:

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Truly, I liked the taste of this cake even better than my earlier attempt; the big bonus of this new recipe is that the cake turns out even more hazelnutty, which is GOOD, because hazelnuts are heavenly ๐Ÿ™‚

If you want to make this cake too, here’s what you will need:

Equipment:

A 23 cm or 9 inch spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.

A pinch of salt

1 stick of unsalted butter 

200 g hazelnuts

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

175 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

For the Icing:

150 ml heavy cream or whipping cream

150 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped

2-3 Tablespoons fo Frangelico

A pinch of Salt

2 handfuls of hazelnuts 

A half cup or so of dark chocolate flakes (you can make these by using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler on some dark chocolate).

Preparing the Ingredients:

To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts (both those you need for the cake and those you need for decorating the top of the cake) in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Once they were lightly browned and I could smell the delicious hazelnutty aroma, I took them out of the oven and let them cool for a bit. Then, I placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed the nuts against each other until their skins peeled off.

Next, I put 200 g of the toasted and skinned nuts in a food processor, along with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar and processed them till fine (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle).

Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate in a microwave, taking care to use a low heat setting, so as not to burn the chocolate.

Preparing the eggs: I separated the egg yolks from the whites, placing 5 egg whites in a large bowl and 6 egg yolks in a smaller bowl. (You can throw away the extra egg white or use it in a face or hair mask.)

Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time, but it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. This is because all the air in your cake will have to come from the egg whites, since there is no chemical raising agent added to the cake.

I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the rich nutty cake I made today! Enjoy!

Method:

1. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Next, add the remaining three-quarters of sugar, one-quarter at a time, until creamy and almost white. Now add the egg yolks two tablespoons at a time, beating well throughout. Next, add the melted chocolate (which would have cooled a bit by now) and beat the mixture until the chocolate is blended in. Then, gently stir in the hazelnut meal that you have already prepared in the food processor.

2. Now we beat the egg whites; this is the slightly tricky part of the recipe. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger.

How to properly beat egg whites
Stiff egg-whites
Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch, well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean, i.e. they are free from oil and water.

3. Once the egg whites are ready, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam to the mixture from step 1 and mix it in. Next, very gently and with a light hand, fold in the rest of the foam. This is important; don’t be rough at this stage; because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:

4. When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 9 inch or 23 cm springform pan.

Delicious Hazelnut Cake

5. Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes. I would go and check on the cake toward the tail-end of this period, say around 45 minutes in. The cake is done when you can insert a tooth-pick gently into the cake, about halfway between the centre and the edge of the cake, and it comes out clean when you pull it out.

6. When it’s done, take the cake out and cool it on a cooling rack. Once it has cooled remove the sides of the pan.

(At this stage of the process, I already noticed one thing that was better about this cake when compared to my earlier Gianduja cake. The surface of this cake was smoother; there were no cracks on this cake at all. Also, it was more evenly baked. (The small nick visible in the picture was made by me with a knife, it wasn’t a crack on the surface.)

Hazelnut cake

7. Now the cake is ready and it’s time to make the icing! Heat 150 ml of cream and 150 g of chopped chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Once it’s melted, add a pinch of salt and the Frangelico. Mix and let the ganache sit on the counter and cool for a bit. In the meantime, take the 2 handfuls of hazelnuts you toasted earlier, and crush them in a mortar or pestle or processor. I like to crush them into small chunks, you can choose to crush them more finely, or coarsely, whatever works for you.

8. Once cooled a bit, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it evenly over it, using an icing spatula or a large, broad knife.

Icing a Hazelnut cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache
I couldn’t glaze the cake until the day after I baked it because I had errands to run. Mysteriously, more than a quarter of the cake just disappeared overnight, so I ended up glazing the left-over part of the cake ๐Ÿ˜›
Next, garnish the cake with crushed hazelnuts and dark chocolate flakes and serve with a shot of Frangelico ๐Ÿ™‚

Rich, hazelnut cake served with Frangelico
This rich hazelnut cake tastes best when served with Frangelico
Also, a little tip, if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on a low setting; both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.

Mmm this cake was utterly delicious, it’s totally worth the effort of baking it, I promise!

Chocolatey Hazelnut Cake
Eating my Delicious Hazelnut Cake ๐Ÿ™‚

Categories
Chocolate Chocolate Truffles Food General Recipes

Dark Chocolate Truffles with Gooey Strawberry Cream-Cheese Centers

Yesterday, the weather was lovely. Although the sky was cloudy and the sun managed to peek out only once or twice, the air was warm and breezy. In the evening, after a grueling Pilates class, I went out for a little stroll in the neighborhood. As I was walking past a green-grocers, it occurred to me that I ought to be healthy and buy some fruit. “I could make myself a healthy fruit shake”, I thought to myself. Going to yoga or Pilates sometimes does this to me; it inspires me to be uncharacteristically open-minded about eating healthy fruit. (It has yet to have any effect on my general aversion to veggies though; THAT would be a real miracle!)

There were several pretty, colourful and bright fruit in the store, but a little basket of strawberries drew my attention the most, and so I bought it. On the walk home, my mind did what it usually does, it wandered to chocolate. “What about strawberry chocolate truffles?” I thought to myself. “Or wait! What about strawberry cream-cheese centered chocolate truffles” I asked myself. Ooooh that sounded delicious, wonderful, so good in fact, that I set about executing my devious plan right then and there. I rushed over to the yucky supermarket across the street from my apartment and bought some cream-cheese. Three hours later, I ended up with this (I took a bite out of it so I could show you the delicious creamy center:

Dark Chocolate Truffles with Strawberry Cream Cheese Centers
Dark Chocolate Truffles with Strawberry Cream Cheese Centers
And here I am chronicling my adventure.

Since my last cream-cheese truffles (brown sugar-coated truffles with orange cream centers) came out so well, I decided to follow a similar process for today’s project. I began with a traditional dark chocolate ganache (made with cream) which I used to make the truffles themselves. Next, I incorporated the cream cheese and strawberry flavours I love so much into the recipe by making cream cheese centers for the truffles. This is the one fairly tricky part of the process. Actually shaping the truffles with the cream cheese centers can be messy and it requires patience. Finally, instead of coating the truffles in brown sugar (as I did with my last batch) I dipped the truffles in dark chocolate. They were pretty good, and if you like strawberries, you will like these EVEN more, so give them a try, why don’t you?

Ingredients for the Truffles:

100 g dark chocolate (since the strawberry cream cheese filling was a little sweet, I used chocolate with 85% cocoa solids)

1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream

A pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (at room temperature)

50 g chocolate to coat truffles with

A sheet of butter paper or foil

Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Centers:

50 g cream cheese (at room temperature)

3-6 tablespoons of icing sugar

6 medium strawberries

Method:

Chop up the chocolate into small pieces (you could also process it in a food processor) and place it in a bowl. It’s important to chop up the chocolate into little bits so that it melts evenly when you pour the cream over it. It should look like this:

Chopped up chocolate to make a ganache
Chopped up chocolate to make a ganache
Heat the cream in a pan until it just begins to bubble and then pour it over the chocolate:

Making a ganache

Let the mixture stand for a few minutes. Then very gently mix the chocolate and cream:

Gently mixing the chocolate ganache

Add the vanilla and salt and mix until you have a smooth ganache:

Chocolate ganache

Cover the bowl and let the ganache cool to room temperature, then place it in the fridge.

While the ganache is chilling, let’s make the cream cheese filling. The first step is making some strawberry juice. Wash the strawberries thoroughly and then hull them (for instructions on how to do this, go here). This is what they should look like:

Hulled Strawberries
Hulled Strawberries
Chop up the hulled strawberries and then process them in a food processor or mixer:

Making strawberry cream cheese filling

Isn’t this a beautiful rich colour?

Strain this pulp to get strawberry juice. We’ll be using this to flavour the cream cheese.

Strawberry juice/extract for chocolate truffles

Set the juice aside. Take another bowl, put the cream cheese in it, and whip it up with a mixer, until it’s smooth.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles
Softened cream cheese
Now, add two tablespoons of icing sugar and whip it all up.

Making cream cheese filling for chocolate truffles

Taste the mixture. If you think it needs more sugar add some more. When it tastes right, add strawberry juice to taste, one teaspoon at a time. You should add as much juice as you think tastes good, however, remember that the more juice you add the thinner the filling will become, and the thinner the filling, the more difficult it is to work with when shaping the truffles.

Strawberry cream cheese filling for chocolate truffles

I had to add some more sugar at this stage to thicken it. It tasted good even with the sugar, but it was more than I would ordinarily have added. When the filling tastes just right to you, pour the cream cheese filling into an icing/frosting bag or a sandwich bag and put it in the fridge.

Once the ganache has been in the fridge for about an hour, take it out and see if it’s firmed up. It should be firm but not hard. Take a large plate and cover it with foil or butter paper. Portion out the ganache on the foil or butter paper, with each portion measuring about a tablespoon full.

Making strawberry cream cheese truffles

Place the plate in the fridge. In about an hour, take it out along with the cream cheese filling. Now you’re ready to begin shaping the truffles.

Pick up a scoop of ganache and shape it into a ball. Flatten it on your hand like a mini-tortilla or chapathi. Next, squeeze a bit of cream cheese filling out of the frosting bag (if you were using a sandwich bag cut off one of the bottom tips of the bag) on the center of the ‘chocolate chapathi’:

Shaping strawberry cream cheese truffles

Fold the chocolate over the cream cheese filling and roll the whole thing carefully into a ball. I don’t have a photograph of this because by this time my hands were covered in chocolate. Repeat this until all the ganache has been used up.

Making chocolate cream cheese truffles
Almost Ready-Truffles!
For the final step, carefully melt 50g dark chocolate (using either a double boiler or a microwave on a very low heat setting). Let the chocolate cool a bit (we don’t want to wait for it to harden, but we don’t want it to be too warm either).

Once the chocolate has cooled somewhat, take a truffle and dip it into the chocolate. Roll it about in the chocolate until it’s completely coated and then use a fork to fish it out. Place the truffle back on the foil/butter paper. Repeat this process with all the truffles. Once you’ve dipped all the truffles, take a toothpick and trace a circle around the bottom of each truffle. This is so that we don’t have a lot of excess chocolate stuck awkwardly to the bottom of the truffle once the outside chocolate has hardened. Place the truffles somewhere cool to cool. They should be ready to eat in 20-30 minutes. Serve in little paper cups. Enjoy!

Strawberry cream cheese truffle

Categories
Chocolate Chocolate Truffles Food General Recipes

Sugar-Coated Dark Chocolate Truffles with Orange Cream Cheese Centers

Brown Sugar coated chocolate truffle with orange-cream cheese centerThis is my favourite kind of truffle so far. In fact, I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten a more delicious chocolate truffle. Mmmm.

It all started with me wandering into my kitchen last evening. I went through my fridge and cabinets, trying to think of a new combination of flavours that I’d never tried in a truffle before. All sorts of ingredients caught my attention, but my eyes kept returning to the block of cream cheese in my fridge. As I wrote in Sunday’s post about dark chocolate cream cheese truffles, I absolutely love the flavour of cream cheese. So I decided to stick with cream cheese, and see if I couldn’t come up with a slightly better version of Sunday’s recipe.

Sunday’s truffles were cream cheese truffles through and through; not only did they have cream cheese centers, the truffles themselves were made with cream cheese. While I liked Sunday’s truffles, what I found was that the texture of the truffle changes when you use cream cheese instead of heavy/whipping cream (this is what is used in traditional truffles); the texture isn’t as velvety and creamy. Generally speaking, this is an acceptable compromise to me because I love the flavour of cream cheese. But Sunday’s experiment taught me that if you’re willing to go to the extra trouble of making cream cheese centers, you don’t need to make this compromise at all! In fact, I thought that the cream cheese in the chocolate didn’t add much in terms of flavour, it was upstaged by the intense flavour of the dark chocolate and by the cream cheese in the center. I could reduce the amount of chocolate I added, but I wanted to make dark chocolate truffles, not milk chocolate ones.

Therefore, for today’s project, I decided to use a traditional dark chocolate ganache (made with cream) to make the truffles, and then incorporate the cream cheese flavour I love so much by making cream cheese centers for them. But that wasn’t all, I added a twist or two to the recipe. You see, I wanted to play around a little with the flavours in my kitchen; it would have been boring to simply recreate, with a small modification, Sundays recipe.

First, I wanted a citrus flavour to the cream cheese, so I added some orange liqueur (Cointreau). Second, I thought it might be fun to coat the truffles with something I’ve never tried before, large brown sugar crystals. But since they’re sweet, I decided to make the chocolate a bit bitter. So I replaced some of the dark chocolate in the ganache recipe with unsweetened chocolate. Here’s what I ended up with:

Brown sugar coated chocolate truffle with orange-cream cheese centerAnd boy am I glad I played instead of sticking to what I know. The truffles were just right in terms of texture and flavour! They were creamy and squishy and the cream cheese centers were gooey, soft, and a little orang-ey. To top it all, the sugar-coating was literally the sugar-coating, it balanced the bitterness of the chocolate perfectly. Here is a shot of half a truffle after I’d bitten into it. I think it illustrates the squishiness and softness I am talking about:

Brown sugar coated chocolate truffle with orange-cream cheese center

The flavours danced together on my tongue with just enough complexity to be intriguing; they acted in perfect concert, I had to close my eyes and savour it. I haven’t felt this excited since I discovered chocolate brazil nut butter.

If you’ve been sold by my mad ravings or these pictures, go ahead and give it a go! The only tough part of the process is actually shaping the truffles with the cream cheese centers. This can be a little messy and it requires patience.

Update: Another important thing to note is that the sugar-coating absorbs moisture. So the outside of the truffle can get wet and sticky over a day or two. The solution that I have found for this problem is to roll the truffles in brown-sugar right before (or even a few hours before) serving them.

Ingredients for the Truffles:

2.5 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream

A small dollop of butter

A pinch of salt

Brown sugar to coat the truffles

Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Centers:

50 g cream cheese (at room temperature)

A dollop of butter

2-4 tablespoons of icing sugar

2-3 teaspoons of Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Method:

Chop up the chocolate into small pieces (you could also process it in a food processor) and place it in a bowl. It’s important to chop up the chocolate into little bits so that it melts evenly when you pour the cream over it. It should look like this:

Chopped up chocolate to make a ganacheHeat the cream in a pan until it just begins to bubble and then pour it over the chocolate:

Making a ganache

Let the mixture stand for a few minutes. Then very gently mix the chocolate and cream:

Gently mixing the chocolate ganache

Add the butter and salt and mix until you have a smooth ganache:

Chocolate ganache

Cover the bowl and let the ganache cool to room temperature, then place it in the fridge.

While the ganache hardens, let’s make the cream cheese filling. Take another bowl, put the cream cheese in it and whip it up with a mixer, until it’s smooth.

Chocolate Cream Cheese TrufflesNow add the butter, two tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of Cointreau and whip it all up.

Making cream cheese filling for chocolate truffles

Taste the mixture. If you think it needs more sugar or Cointreau add some more. When it tastes right, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge.

Once the ganache has been in the fridge for about an hour, take it out and see if it’s firmed up. It should be firm but not hard. If it’s firm take it out along with the cream cheese filling. You will also need a bowl with a few tablespoons of brown sugar in it and a large plate covered with foil or butter paper. Now you’re ready to begin shaping the truffles.

Portion out the ganache onto the foil or butter paper, with each portion measuring about a tablespoon. When you’ve scooped out the lot take the first portion and shape it into a ball. Then, flatten it on your hand like a mini-tortilla or chapathi:

Shaping chocolate cream cheese trufflesNow scoop a bit of cream cheese filling onto the center of the ‘chocolate chapathi’:

Shaping chocolate cream cheese trufflesNow fold the chocolate over the cream cheese.

Shaping chocolate cream cheese trufflesFinally, roll the whole thing carefully into a ball. I don’t have a photograph of this because by this time my hands were covered in chocolate. Repeat this until all the ganache has been used up.

Making chocolate cream cheese trufflesFor the final step, start with one of the first few truffles you shaped. (When you work with the truffles they will get a little melted and squishy from your body heat. This is why i suggest picking up one of the first few truffles you worked on; by now it will have cooled down and firmed up again.) Gently roll it about in your hand to make the surface a little sticky. Roll the truffle in the bowl of brown sugar so that it is completely coated.

Brown sugar-coated chocolate truffles with orange-cream cheese centers

Repeat until all the truffles are coated. And there you’re all done! Enjoy your delicious truffles, I know I did ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sugar coated chocolate truffle with orange-cream cheese center

Categories
Chocolate Chocolate Truffles Cooking Food General Recipes

Basic Dark Chocolate Truffles

So by now, I think it is fairly obvious that I love chocolate. However, truth be told, I’ve become sick of all the usual chocolate you can buy at the drug-store or supermarket- the likes of Lindt, Ghirardelli, Cadburys etc. I even, to be honest, am sort of over store-bought hazelnut butter- a.k.a. Nutella.

No hell has not frozen over, and no I have not been kidnapped by someone who is now pretending to be me on my blog so people don’t report me missing (if you are someone who is considering kidnapping me by the way, this tactic will never work, I talk to my parents and some close friends virtually everyday, so I would be reported missing if I didn’t answer my phone in 2 hours max.) “But Nutella is AWESOME” you exclaim or if you’re my mother or father, which you probably are if you’re reading this, you heave a sigh of relief, because until now you thought I was going to develop heart disease and diabetes and god knows what else at the very tender age of 29.

But don’t get too excited dear parents, I am NOT giving up chocolate. I am saying I am over this store-bought stuff because it’s too sweet and frankly not very good chocolate. If I could, I’d go eat pralines and truffles from Soma (this amazing chocolate store in the distillery district in Toronto) or Leonidas or Patchi or some other chocolate store that knows what they’re doing. BUT, the problem is, I couldn’t possibly afford to- considering how much chocolate I guzzle on a daily basis and considering I am but a poor doctoral candidate.

NOW I finally have the solution to this problem. Handmade, homemade truffles! And now that I’ve figured out how to make them, I simply cannot understand how I was ever able to eat that rubbish they call chocolate in supermarkets and drugstores.

In addition these truffles are the answer to my goldilocks-type problem with chocolate. My problem with most dark chocolate is that it’s not as creamy as milk chocolate; my problem with milk chocolate is that it isn’t chocolatey enough. Happily, one of the things that makes truffles magical is that they can be rich, creamy and smooth and ALSO have a strong chocolatey flavour.

If you’d like to discover true happiness as well, keep reading, because what follows, is a detailed narrative of how to make basic dark chocolate truffles.

Equipment you will need:

A cutting board and knife OR a food proccessor

2 medium sized bowls

2 plates

Parchment sheet or foil

Little paper cups to put the truffles in

Ingredients:

8 Oz (approx 225 g) good dark chocolate (at least 70-80 % cocoa solids)

1/2 cup cream (whipping cream in Canada or heavy cream or double cream elsewhere)

A dollop of butter (at room temp)

2 pinches of salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

A few tbsp of Cocoa powder

Method:

Chop up the chocolate on a cutting board into fine pieces with a large knife. This is the tiresome part of the recipe. I have a food processor, so I just break the chocolate up into individual squares and then throw it into the processor. The reason you want the chocolate broken up into fine bits is because you want it all to melt when you pour in the hot cream.

Throw the chocolate bits into a bowl. Next, get the half cup of cream just to a boil and immediately turn off the heat and pour the hot cream into the bowl with the chocolate. Using a ladle, make sure all the chocolate is covered by the cream.

Let it sit for 2-3 minutes and then delicately fold the mixture. It’s important not to be rough because then you will get air bubbles into the chocolate. That wouldn’t be good as you want the chocolate to taste smooth and rich.

Add the dollop of butter, vanilla essence and salt and mix gently. Place the bowl in the fridge for about an hour, until it firms up. In the meantime take out the plates and place two sheets of parchment or foil on them. Once the chocolate mixture is ready take it out of the fridge and spoon out the chocolate in small portions onto the parcement or foil. The portions should be approximately the size you want the truffles to be.

Place the plates in the fridge again for about 15 mins. Take the truffles out when they’re firmed up again and roll them about in your hand until they’re more or less spherical, then place them back on the parchment. You can also try to shape them as tear drops- but good luck with that, it’ll take patience. This part of the process is so much fun! I love it because the chocolate looks and smells delicious. I would recommend washing your hands periodically in between, as you will get chocolate all over them, and it will be more difficult to shape the truffles if you’ve got melted chocolate on your hands. Also, the washing will help to cool your hands.

Once you’ve shaped all the truffles, take another bowl and put about 2 tbsp of cocoa powder in it. Take each truffle in your hand, roll it about for a second or two, just enough to warm the surface and then roll the truffle in the cocoa powder, until it is covered. Then place it in a paper cup. Repeat until all the truffles are done.

Mmmm they will taste delicious. You can put them in the fridge for two weeks or more, but take them out a few hours before you serve them- so that they’re at room temperature.

These basic truffles were so good, that I’ve tried quite a few variations too, such as, dark chocolate truffles with hazelnut butter-cream filling; truffles with a hazelnut centre that are coated with toasted, crushed hazelnuts; and dark chocolate truffles with a hint of orange. I will post pictures and recipes of these variations soon!

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food Recipes

Dark Chocolate Brazil Nut Butter (better than Nutella!)(seriously!!).

As much as I love chocolate, I love nutty flavours- not more, not less, just exactly the same amount. Now, while generally the hazelnut has been my nut of choice (although walnuts are lovely too and well peanuts are as unexotic as they are delicious) I think I have a new favourite- the brazil-nut.

In one sense my brazil-nut love-affair began a long time ago. The body shop has these rich, creamy body-butters and my favourite has always been their brazil-nut body butter. It’s absolutely delectable. Anyway, although I loved this body-butter, I’d never really eaten a brazil-nut before, or baked/cooked with these nuts. Then, one lovely summer weekend, my awesome father came to visit. It was wonderful to spend time with him and we walked and talked together, all over the city. As always, he wanted to get me something special as a parting present as it were, and we settled upon a food processor. This is now my favourite toy. It’s amazing and it makes life SO much easier. I shall rant about said toy in another post though, this post is about brazil-nuts.

Anyway, the first thing I decided to make with my processor was home-made nutella. And this project turned out quite well indeed. So well in fact, that the next day, I was out of butter. This time I decided to be adventurous. “This body-butter smells delicious”, I said to myself, “if I like these lotions and potions because they are inspired by food that I love, does it not follow that I would love the food that inspired my most treasured skin-concoction of all??!!”

So I went to the store and bought 100 g of Brazil-nuts. This is what they looked like:

I used only 100g because I wasn’t sure how the experiment would turn out. Here is an account of how things turned out:

Other ingredients I used:

About a cup of icing sugar (it’s important to use icing sugar and not any other kind because you don’t want discrete crystals of it in your butter. You want the butter to have a smooth texture)

1/2 to 3/4 tsp vanilla essence

A pinch of salt

1 tsp or so of peanut oil

About 100 g of good quality dark chocolate

Method:

I began by toasting the brazil-nuts in the oven at 375 farenheit (thatโ€™s 180 celsius) for about 10 minutes, tossing the nuts once during this time. I let them cool, and then placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed them against each other until their skins came off. (This process is a little boring and repetitive, so I recommend watching some television or chatting with a friend while you do this.)

Once their skins were mostly off, I put the nuts in the processor and then just let it run for a while. You don’t need to add any butter or oil at all at this stage. Just let the processor do it’s thing. If you’re wondering which blade you should use, check the processor manual- it should tell you what blade/setting works for nut-butters. The nuts will first be crushed, then they’ll be ground to a fine paste and finally you will find them turning to butter. While the nuts are being processed place the chocolate in a bowl and melt it in the microwave. Be sure to do this on a low setting as you don’t want to burn the chocolate. Ideally, you should melt the chocolate in a double boiler to avoid this, but I find that if I am careful, I can do it in the microwave. Once the nuts are smooth, creamy and buttery in texture, stop the processor.

Add the salt, peanut oil, vanilla essence, half the melted chocolate and a few tablespoons of sugar to the butter. Run the processor. Stop and taste-test. if you feel it needs more chocolate or sugar, add some more and process again. Repeat the taste-test and sugar-chocolate adjustments, if necessary. I think it’s best not to follow a recipe in this regard, but to just wing it. As I said in an earlier post about my “universal dark chocolate icing“, each of us has very particular preferences, so why not try and make something perfectly suited to one’s own palate?

Once you’ve played around with the sugar-chocolate balance and found the perfect equilibrium between the two, and made sure everything has been evenly and smoothly mixed together, stop the processor. The butter will look and smell and delicious as you pour it into a jar or tupperware. Here’s proof of how amazing it looks at least:

“I should have made more!”, I lamented to myself. I really should have. And so should you! Double the recipe!

The texture is slightly thin, so if you’d like it thicker so you can spread it on bread etc., put it in the fridge. (I eat nutella with a tablespoon, not bread, so I don’t understand the other half of the population that eat’s it WITH things (unless it’s ice cream they eat it with, THAT I understand).) It’ll look like this once you put it in the fridge.

Ok, not exactly like this. Quite obviously, I got to this with a tablespoon FIRST and THEN realized I should have photographed it. Anyway, you get the idea about the butter’s texture.

All in all, this was deliciousness itself. It tastes absolutely incredible, way better than any nut-butter I’ve tried before.

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food Recipes

Flourless Gianduja Cake (a.k.a. the best Nutella cake in the Universe)

Ever since I returned from India last week I have been feeling sickish intermittently. I woke up this morning feeling more drained than usual, so in an effort to cheer myself up I decided to bake.

I walked over to the neighborhood Public Library, which, by the way, happens to be 2 minutes away from my apartment, and checked out Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”. I browsed through the book and when I came upon her recipe for “Torta Alla Gianduja”, well I was quite excited to say the least. You see, I have loved Nutella for most of my adult life with an unhealthy, even disturbing fervour and devotion. (I would have loved it as a child, but I grew up in India at a time when “foreign products” were difficult to come by. My parents brought me chocolate from all over the world because they traveled quite a bit, but for some reason they never did buy me nutella. Even peanut butter I only chanced upon when my American cousins brought a jar with them on their visit to India. (Needless to say I was smitten, but that ramble is for another blog-post.))

Back to the recipe, the Nutella cake seemed fairly simple to make- so I decided to give it a try. I modified the recipe a bit, and the icing I used (the recipe for which can be found in my next post) was quite different from the one Nigella recommended. You can find her original recipe here:

What follows is a blow-by-blow account of how the experiment went, complete with amateur pictures taken with my iPhone.

What you will need:

Equipment:

A 23 cm spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.

Ingredients:

6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.

A pinch of salt

1 stick of salted butter (the recipe calls for unsalted butter, but I like a little bit more salt in my chocolate recipes than most, I find it balances the flavour well. In addition, salted butter is cheaper at the super-market by mine (for some mysterious reason). Therefore, I decided to use salted butter.)

1 375g jar of Nutella

1 Tbsp Jamaican Rum (the recipe calls for Frangelico, but my neighborhood LCBO (for my non-Ontario friends, this is the only store that sells alcohol in Ontario, apart from the beer store and a few random wine stores that sell only Canadian wine) (it’s weird I know!) didn’t have any.)

100 g Hazelnuts

100g Lindt dark chocolate ( with at least 70 % cocoa solids)

To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 375 degrees farenheit (that’s 180 celsius).

Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts in the oven at 375 farenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Next, I let them cool a bit and then placed them in a tea-towel. Then I rubbed the nuts against the towel until their skins peeled off. Then, I put the nuts in a food processor (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) and processed them till fine.

Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate over a double boiler (you can use a microwave, but be careful not to burn the chocolate then).

I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the delish cake I made today! Enjoy!

The first step of the baking process involved separating the whites and yolks of 6 eggs. (Make sure to put the whites in a large bowl). Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time. But it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. Your cake will not rise properly if you don’t beat the whites properly in that cake.

After separating the whites and yolks, add the pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger. Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch- well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean- i.e. they are free from oil and water.

Stiff egg-white
Next, beat the Nutella and butter together, until they are well-mixed and creamy. Then add the rum. Beat. Next add egg yolks. Beat. Finally beat in the ground hazelnuts.

Nutella batter!
Then, fold in the dark chocolate. Next, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam and beat it in. Finally, slowly and gently fold in the rest of the foam. This is important- don’t be rough at this stage- because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:

When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 23 inch springform pan.

Batter in the pan
Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. I would go and check on it towards the tail-end of this period. The cake is done when it starts separating from the sides of the tin. You can do the tooth-pick test to confirm (insert a toothpick gently in and see if it is clean when you pull it out).

When it’s done, take it out and cool it on a cooling rack. I don’t have one so I made a makeshift one:

My cake cooling!
And when it’s cooled remove the sides of the pan:

As you can see, I couldn
Now the cake is ready! I am off to go make some chocolate ganache to ice it with now. Yay! You can find the recipe for the icing in the next post. Also, a little tip- if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on low- both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.

Oh and by the way, since the cake is flour-less it’s gluten-free!