Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Boozy Cakes and Cheeky Tarts

I've been doing a bit of experimental baking in recent times. After a few particularly stressful assignments at uni (one involving a group seminar), I was in dire need of a pick-me-up, therapeutic baking session. I'd found a recipe for a Chocolate Porter Cake in the Pursuit of Hoppiness magazine that we have at work so I decided to try it out. I bought the KJD Cherry Chocolate Porter ale from our local craft beer supplier, then settled in to make a delicious cake. This is probably the best cake I have ever made. It is rich without being heavy, the beer lightens it up slightly. It's a little crunchy on the outside and deliciously soft and moist on the inside. So here goes:

Haley's Porter Chocolate Cake

230g butter
1 cup of dark beer (porter or stout)
2/3 cup of good quality cocoa powder
20g of 70% (or darker) chocolate
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/4 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of sour cream or unsweetened yoghurt
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 175ºC

Line the base of a medium-large round cake tin with baking paper then grease sides with butter and dust with flour.

Melt butter, beer and chocolate in a pot on the stove, bring it to a light simmer and then stir in the cocoa powder until dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Beat the eggs and sour cream/yoghurt in a medium sized bowl until creamy and pale.

Add beer mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to combine, then add the egg mixture and beat to combine. Taste it - go on have a spoonful.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for approx 45 mins or until a knife inserted into centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin. You can either ice it, slap some cream in the middle or serve it plain. Goes great warmed with some vanilla bean ice cream - but whatever you do definitely have a glass of the beer to go with it.

I made this cake twice and gave heaps of it away. Tastes awesome when it's cold too, like chocolate brownie. I made the second cake the day after I made the first. I used a 10% stout from 8 Wired Brewing Co. It was amazing.

Now I guess you'll be wondering what these "Cheeky Tarts" are. At work, we decided to have a bake-off - kitchen vs bar vs floor (me). The challenge - make something awesome that involves Black Doris Plums. I had no idea what to make and finally after trawling through the internet for ideas, settled on a plum tart. But you know me, it can't be any ordinary plum tart, it had to be special. Like dark chocolate and frangipane special...

Lined a tart tin with sweet pastry, then covered the base with frangipane (for those of you who don't know, it's an almond flavoured mixture of deliciousness - think frangelico). Then coarsely chopped up some Whittaker's 72% dark ghana (I've been obsessed with this stuff for a while now) and sprinkled it over the frangipane. Covered the top with doris plum halves, and baked it in the oven for about 45 mins at 185ºC. The frangipane puffs up in between the plums, enveloping them beautifully. Here, I'll show you -

Happy Easter!!

 I know what you're thinking... Easter was a decent while ago now but I just never found the time to upload any of the creations I made over the last month or so.

Starting with Easter, which happens to be one of my favourite times of year and no, not just because of the copious amounts of cheap chocolate fashioned into giant bunnies and massive eggs, but because of the family traditions that my family has over Easter weekend. Starting with Good Friday's early morning baking of hot cross buns.

For as long as I remember, Good Friday hasn't been just another day off school, or that really morbid mass at church, instead it's been a family day. Mum, and now with me thrown in the mix, gets up bright and early and kneads and rises dough, mixes deliciously spiced, fruity concoctions, then bakes them in the oven so anyone who's still in bed wakes up to the smell of hot cross buns wafting down the hallway. Our hot cross bun recipe is special. None of that meagerly spiced, barely any fruit rubbish you get at the supermarket. We triple the spice mixture, as well as add extra spices (which I shall not share - can't give too many secrets away). Then double the fruit mixture - for those who dare to say buns with fruit in them aren't their thing, wait until next Easter and I'll change your mind for you.

The best part, is putting on the crosses. I loathe painted on flour and water crosses. We roll out some home made pastry, cut it into strips and brush it with egg, then stick them on the buns, Cris-crossed.

After the buns come out of the oven, they are glazed (super quick, and usually involves burning your fingers). Then we brew some tea (traditional choice Lapsang Souchong) and sit down to devour the steaming hot buns. Always, always eat the bottom half first, dripping with golden butter, then save the top half (with the cross on it) for last, trust me it's better that way.

My family, if we manage to get myself, my brother and mum and dad all home at the same time (with the hot cross buns, I couldn't imagine that being hard), we sit down and play board games for the whole afternoon and eat nothing but the double recipe of hot cross buns. You don't need anything else. Our choice of board game - Settlers of Catan - a phenomenally fun board game, we form alliances and collect sheep (my brother started this one).

This Easter I wasn't able to make it home to mum and dad because I was working, but they had a roast like we usually do. I'll try make it next year. But I'm content with having Good Friday off because the Hot Cross Buns are the best part.