Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

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Pound cake. I don’t know what it is about pound cake that just gets me going. Perhaps it’s that buttery taste, or the tight crumb that melts in your mouth, or the insanely delicious smell it creates in your kitchen when it’s baking. It’s basically heaven. Who can say no to that?!

Pound cake is actually easy to make. Most recipes have a very similar set of ingredients and are often called sour cream cakes or even butter cakes. Essentially, they use the same ingredients in varying quantities to achieve a given result. If you’re a geek like me, watch this video that shows you how the varying quantities affect the end result of the cake. Otherwise, just take my word for it, this stuff is good!

One thing I always took for granted with baking, was the temperature of the ingredients. I really learned the effects of it when I once make pound cake with sour cream straight out of the fridge! The cake ended up being stodgy inside as the cold of the sour cream made the butter in the batter firm up into little globules. Not ideal! Since then, I’ve always used room temperature ingredients. Your butter, eggs and sour cream and the crucial ingredients that should always be used at room temperature. Trust me.

Lastly, I confess that I did not measure the amount of chocolate chips I put in this pound cake. I like a lot of chocolate chips, so I cut up some chocolate and added it in. If it didn’t look enough when i stirred it through the batter then I added more! I estimate at least 1/2 cup of chocolate chips will be needed. I recommend buying a bar or chocolate and chopping that up rather than using chocolate chips from the baking aisle. It just doesn’t taste as good!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake (Adapted from SBA)
Makes 1 loaf
220g all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
230g butter, softened to room temperature
200g granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 - 1 cup chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, put your flour, baking powder, and salt. Give it a little whisk to combine. Set aside.

With a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugar and vanilla, until creamy, about 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in between additions. Add your sour cream and beat once more. Now add your dry ingredients. Mix using a spatula to give better control. You don’t want to overmix the batter! When the flour is nearly combined with the batter, add your chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated. The batter will be very thick and creamy, as it should be.

Spoon batter into loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden. Check at 40 minutes to see if the cake is browning too much. If so, cover the top with some foil and continue baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool inside the pan for 5 minutes. turn onto a cooling rack. Once cool to touch you can slice it up and eat it. It’s best to wait until it’s fully cool as that makes cutting easier.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is a popular Italian dessert. The name literally translates to cooked cream. It’s one of the easiest desserts you could make and you can easily change up the flavours or accompaniments to suit your liking. This recipe is for the classic vanilla panna cotta which is a great place to start if you’ve never had this dessert before.

to me this dessert is like a cross between a jelly and a custard. The texture is similar to a thick custard, but the flavour is super creamy and decadent. Best of all, it requires a minimal amount of ingredients, and effort! What could be better than that!

Usually panna cotta is set in a mould and when you’re ready to serve you turn it upside down on a plate to release it. Honestly, I’ve never bothered with that! I just put my panna cotta in a glass, or jar or whatever container looks pretty. It’s so much easier and you don’t have to faff around trying to de-mould each panna cotta whilst praying it doesn’t collapse. Also this means you don’t need to grease your moulds either. See, I’m all about the quick and easy.

I decided to top my panna cotta with some raspberry coulis. You can use pretty much any fruit you like. I would opt for something tangy to cut through the rich panna cotta. Balsamic strawberries is a classic, but you could also try other berries or even a jelly of your choice. There’s also the lazy option of just eating it as is. Either way, it’s still enjoyable.

Vanilla Panna Cotta ( Adapted from HERE)
Makes 4-6
1.5 cups cream
1.5 cups whole milk (use all cream for a decadent version)
3 tsp gelatin
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Pour the milk and cream into the saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over top. Let soften for 5 minutes or until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the gelatin grains look like wet sand.

Turn the heat on the lowest setting and allow the gelatin to dissolve. Dissolve the gelatin over low heat: Set the saucepan over low heat and warm the milk gently, stirring or whisking frequently. The milk should never boil or simmer; if you see steam, remove the pot from the stove and let it cool down. The milk should get hot, but not so hot that you can't leave your finger in the pot for a few seconds. The gelatin will dissolve quickly as the milk warms; it melts at body temperature so this step should go quickly.

Check to make sure the gelatin is dissolved: After about 2 minutes of warming, rub a bit of the milk between your fingers to make sure it's smooth. Or dip a spoon in the milk and check the back for distinct grains of gelatin.

Dissolve the sugar: Stir the sugar into the milk and continue warming until it dissolves as well. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes total to dissolve both the gelatin and sugar. Again, never let the mixture boil.

Whisk in the cream and flavorings: Remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the cream, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

Pour into the ramekins and chill: Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins and put in the refrigerator to chill. If serving straight from the cups, without unmolding, chill for 1 to 2 hours. If you want to unmold the panna cotta, chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

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Pate Choux is a french pastry or dough which is used to make eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles and various other yummy goodies. Eclairs have been a childhood favourite of mine which I've always wanted to make myself. There's just something about pastry, whipped cream and chocolate that gets me going. These puffs are seriously addictive. You won't be able to stop at one, so consider sharing this with friends or family, because this is nowhere near healthy.

I've made pate choux before and managed to mess it up. I always see mistakes in the kitchen as a good thing, because I know I will never repeat it again. So due to these mistakes, I can tell you that there are two tricks to a successful puff. One is to ensure you add your eggs one at a time and beat between each addition. Don't add another egg until the first one is fully incorporated. Eggs are the main leavening agent in pate choux, so you want to make sure you incorporate it fully. You'll know you've messed up here if you end up with dough balls instead of puffs after baking.

The second trick is to bake the puffs for long enough. It's easy to think they are done because they puff quickly, but it's actually the colour you have to look for. It needs to be a golden brown colour and it will seem like it has formed a firm shell on top. Baking times will vary depending on your oven and the size of your puff so you really have to play it by ear. If you remove them from the oven too early they will deflate, which leaves no room for delightful Chantilly cream.

Speaking of Chantilly cream, you don't need to fill your puffs with it. Although I do recommend it, as it's my favourite. Though if you're not a fan of Chantilly cream, there are many alternative options you can go with. Custard or creme patisserie is of course the other common filling but you could literally fill it with whatever your heart fancies. I have seen Nutella and Matcha flavoured creams, or even coconut cream if you're dairy intolerant. Some like to go a bit bold with their fillings and add marshmallow or cookies and cream ganache. The possibilities really are endless. Pick a flavour and go for gold!

Cream Puffs
Makes 36 puffs

For the pastry
100g unsalted butter (use margarine for dairy free option)
125ml water
125ml whole milk (replace with water if you're dairy intolerant)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
150g plain flour
4 large eggs

Chantilly Cream Filling
1 cup cream
2 Tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Ganache Topping
100g double cream
100g chocolate (I used 50% dark)

Decorations - Freeze dried raspberries or chopped nuts

We begin with the pastry. In a small saucepan place the butter, water, milk, salt and sugar on low heat. Once the butter has melted, bring it to a light boil then remove from the heat. Add your flour and mix. Return to low heat and cook for a minute. A film should form on the bottom of the pan and the dough should form one large ball. Once this has happened, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

While this is cooling, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Once the dough is cool, add your eggs one at a time. Use an electric beater to mix in each egg completely before adding the next. Once all eggs are combined you will have a smooth dough that moves like lava.
Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper. You can use a bit of dough under the paper in the four corners to stick the paper to the tray so it doesn't lift later on.
Pop the dough into a pastry bag that has a round tip. Alternatively you can just snip of the end of the bag and forget about the tip if you don't have one.
Pipe little puffs onto your lined trays. Mine were about 4cm in diameter and I made sure to leave room between them on the tray so they can expand. Keep piping until all the mixture is used. Once oven is ready pop them in for 20 - 30 minutes. You will need to judge the time by eye. check at 20 minutes, if it's not golden then do not remove from the oven. Leave it in until you have golden tops, then remove and leave to cool completely.

To make the cream filling, simply add cream, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Put this mixture into your piping bag and either use a small nozzle or snip a tiny hole in the bag. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the ganache, warm the cream in a small sauce pan on low heat. Do not boil it. Once you see little bubble forming on the outside remove from heat and immediately add your chocolate to the pan. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until combine. It will take a little while to come together, so don't worry if it looks a mess to begin with.

When it's time to assemble, make a hole in the bottom of all your puffs. I used a chopstick to do this. Put your nozzle into the hole and pipe the cream until the puff is full. You will feel the weight of the puff change and you will feel some resistance when it's full. Fill all the puffs and then get ready to coat. Simply dunk each puff into the chocolate ganache and then set aside on a wire rack. Once all are coated, sprinkle with your topping of choice. I did some with walnuts and some with freeze dried raspberries. The chocolate will set on it's own at room temperature eventually. I prefer to keep these in the fridge so they set quicker. They are best eaten the same day they are made, but they will last in the fridge for a day or two longer.

Enjoy
xx

Ugeshni

Creme Brulee for Two

It's just hubsy and I at home, which is why I often only make fancy desserts when we are invited to dinner parties, so I don't have to adjust a recipe to suit two people. I've made creme brulee usually for 4-6 people but the trouble is, it all ends up on our waistline, which is not ideal. So, a recipe that suits two people, for special occasions was the challenge!

Creme brulee is our all time favourite dessert! If it's on the menu at any restaurant I won't even look at any of the other desserts. I have been playing around with this recipe for a while now and I've finally got it perfect. It was by complete accident, as is most of my great recipes lol If you follow my instructions I guarantee you a smooth, rich, fully set creme brulee.

Before that, here's some tips I've learned from my numerous experiments.

Only use cream - many recipes use a mixture of milk and cream. No! It's creme brulee, not milk brulee. The custard just isn't the same when you add milk and you often have to bake it longer to get it to set.

More egg yolks isn't always better - Egg yolks in custard has two purposes. One is to enrich it and the other is to thicken it. You would think the more egg yolks you add the richer the custard. Well I tried 5 egg yolks and it tasted horrible, so more isn't better in this case.

Use real vanilla - Vanilla essence is good for baking, but I really think you need real vanilla for creme brulee. The whole point of heating the creme is to infuse the vanilla flavour, if you're using essence you're wasting your time. I use vanilla powder, but the traditional vanilla pod is good too.

Sugar is variable - Obviously you need sugar for the brulee, but for the creme itself, you don't need a lot. I used double the amount of sugar than this recipe states and it was border line sugar over load. I think 3 Tbs is best as you want some sweetness to come from the brulee too.

Fork it - I find that when I use a whisk I end up with a very frothy mixture. It's difficult trying to skim this froth off the top before baking and if you leave it on it creates a weird texture after baking. I learned, from another recipe, that using a fork will limit the amount of froth produced. Perfect!

Bake it low and slow - Baking times and temperatures is the difference between a perfectly set creme and a leaky mess. I've had many that have not been set, or just partially set. When you check on it, it should only have a slight jiggle in the center, If it's wobbling too much, it's not set. Your oven should never be over 160 C. The perfect custard needs to be baked slowly in a water bath. That part isn't optional.

Use appropriate sized dishes - This one took me ages to work out. Lets just say putting two ramekins in a massive roasting tin filled with water is of no benefit to you or the custard. This recipe is for two, so your roasting tray should be a 20cm x 20cm tray, like the ones you would use to make slices.

Creme Brulee For Two
Serves 2
250ml cream
1 vanilla pod, or one pinch of vanilla powder
3 egg yolks
4 Tbs sugar, plus more for the brulee

Place cream and vanilla in a saucepan on medium heat. Bring the cream up to a simmer, not a boil. You should see steam coming off it, but it won't be rapidly boiling. Once it has reached temp, turn the heat off and set aside to infuse and cool down for 5-7minutes. You want it to still be warm, but not hot or it will scramble your eggs.

In a bowl, place your sugar and egg yolks. Using a fork, whisk it together to combine.

If using a vanilla pod, remove the pod now from your cream. Add a splash of cream to the egg mixture and continue beating with your fork. Add a second splash, then add the rest of the cream. Whisk until combined. Pour into two ramekins.

Place ramekins into a tray and fill the tray will boiling water until it's halfway up the sides of your ramekin.

Place tray in the oven and bake at 160 C for 40-45 minutes. Check at 40 mins, if still quite wobbly, pop it back in for another 5 mins. Remove from the oven and remove from the water bath. Leave on counter to cool completely before popping in the fridge for 4 hours.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle some sugar over the top of the creme and use a blow torch to melt it. Serve immediately!

Enjoy!!

xx
Ugeshni