Layered Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Gateau

My mum asked me to make a chocolate-based pudding to serve alongside the traditional boozy-fruity-pyrotechnic Christmas fare. I spent a good while researching recipes and just couldn’t find anything that appealed to me, so I set about dreaming something up. This is very much a work in progress, so I’m predominantly blogging it so that I’ve got notes for when I embark on the second attempt. I was concerned it might be horribly rich but actually it was light and delicious. If I weren’t in polite company (well, my family, so relatively polite) I could’ve put away a heart-stopping quantity of it…

I used a 10″ tin. I might try a 9″ next time, which would obviously make it slightly taller.

Layer 1: chocolate sponge base
I made a 1 egg version of the sponge from the chocolate and raspberry cake I did in October (which also gave me eight bonus cupcakes as I wanted a very slim cake base):
25g dark chocolate
115ml hot brewed coffee
150g caster sugar (reduced from original to avoid sickliness)
100g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch salt
1 large egg
55ml sunflower oil
110ml buttermilk / plain yoghurt
Spot vanilla extract

Method as in the other recipe. When the sponge is cooled, remove the baking paper, wash the tin then line its sides with acetate and drop the sponge back in.

Layer 2: chocolate mousse
170g dark chocolate
80ml whole milk
1 large egg yolk
4 large egg whites
2 tbsp caster sugar

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (in a large bowl) then leave it on the counter to cool a little. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over the chocolate, then blend using a small whisk. Add the egg yolk and gently work into the chocolate. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then increase the speed and add the sugar gradually. Continue whisking to stiff peaks. Add a third of the egg whites to the chocolate and beat to lighten. Carefully but thoroughly fold in the rest of the whites, then pour the mousse mixture into the tin on top of the sponge and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Layers 3 and 5: hazelnut meringue
40g toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped in a blender
2 large egg whites
120g caster sugar

Preheat to 140C. Draw around the tin onto two sheets of baking paper, which will then line two baking sheets. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking the whole time, until you get a firm glossy meringue. Gently fold in the hazelnuts. Spread the meringue mixture onto the baking sheets as flat as you can, to about 1cm from the edge of the circles you drew on the baking paper. Bake for about 90 minutes (you want crispy meringue) then switch off the oven and leave the meringues inside overnight to cool completely and dry out. Place one meringue on top of the chocolate mousse and keep the other aside.

Layer 4: Chantilly cream (ish)
300ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
(Chantilly cream usually contains sugar too, hence the “ish”. I didn’t want this too sweet.)

Whisk the cream to soft peaks, then add the vanilla and continue whisking to firm peaks. Spread on top of the first meringue, reserving a big spoonful. Place the second meringue on the top, then top with the reserved cream and make the surface as flat as possible. Place in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to allow the top surface to become firm enough to stay put when you spread the ganache.

Layer 6: chocolate ganache
105g dark chocolate, finely chopped
150ml double cream
1tbsp Golden Syrup
35g unsalted butter

Over a low-medium heat, slowly bring the double cream and Golden Syrup to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir VERY SLOWLY in concentric circles starting in the middle. When it has emulsified, throw in the butter a few cubes at a time and continue stirring gently until it’s all in and melted. Take the gateau out of the freezer and spread the ganache over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. [Note to self: try a more fluid ganache next time so it doesn’t set so firm?]

I finished this one with some salted caramel I happened to have left over, which I attempted to fashion into a snowflake-type motif with some gold edible glitter. Annoyingly, the ganache was too firm to recover from the skewer I dragged over it – I should’ve done this before refrigerating.

Layered Chocolate Hazelnut Gateau

Layered Chocolate Hazelnut Gateau

Christmas Truffles

For our company Christmas party this year, I’ve been asked to make truffles for each guest, to sit at their place on the table.  Obviously, the prospect of this project made me rub my little paws together with glee, and I set about making plans.  My original intention was to make three mini Christmas pudding truffles per person, but mercifully I realised before I kicked off that this would entail hours of faff (during a very busy weekend), so I opted instead for two plain chocolate truffles and one mini Christmas pudding truffle per person.

First up, the plain chocolate truffles.  As far as I can gather, there’s no complicated trick to making delicious truffles; it’s a simple ganâche laced with booze of your choice (I added clementine zest for a festive flavour), rolled into little balls and coated in cocoa.

Please, don’t count the number of Green & Black’s wrappers… it’s too sinful.1

Being as how I was wo-ho-hoefully hungover following my choir Coro‘s slightly boozy Christmas shindig, I let the Kitchen Aid take the strain of whisking the hot cream and brandy into the chopped chocolate.
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I then poured the ganache into shallow bowls and refrigerated for a couple of hours.
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There are many situations in which I am delighted to have excellent circulation (i.e. warm hands).  Rolling chocolate truffles is not one of those situations.
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They were so outrageously gloopy that I had to refrigerate them again before rolling them in cocoa and popping them in little paper cases.
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Next up, the mini Christmas pudding truffles…  I used Nigella’s recipe, which I used when I made these years ago.  She tells you to crumble the leftover Christmas pudding, but I prefer to whizz it in the blender to make the texture finer – the truffles are so little that a couple of whole raisins could make it a bit too lumpy.
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I attempted uniformity in size by using the teaspoon measure.
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Apologies for being crass, but there’s no getting away from the fact that these look like shiny little… well… they don’t look like something you’d want to eat.  Yet.3

In the fridge they went.  Next, I melted some Green & Black’s white chocolate, let it rest for a few minutes and drizzled it on each truffle.

Nigella recommends using tiny pieces of angelica and glacé cherries for the holly decoration, but I remember that they were so infuriatingly sticky and difficult to place that I very nearly threw the whole tray of truffles against the wall.  Bearing in mind that the white walls in my kitchen don’t belong to me, I was chuffed to bits when I remembered a tub of sprinkles I had in the cupboard.
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Oh, pleasing.  Very pleasing indeed.
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And this is approximately how they’ll look when they’re all wrapped up (I used rejects to do this, so forgive the imperfections):
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A weekend of test runs: Santa Hat Brownies & Red Spiral Biscuits

Through the wonders of Pinterest, I have found a couple of festive baking projects I want to serve this Christmas but I am always keen to do a test run of something new, to get my inevitable rookie mistakes out of the way so that I’ve got a better chance of achieving something lovely the second time.

My first festive baked treat is Santa Hat Brownies. I only used the original recipe for its presentation idea, opting for a tried-and-tested brownie recipe (the best I’ve found so far) instead of the recommended one:

90g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g unsalted butter
2 eggs
300g soft light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
15g cocoa
1/2tsp baking powder
Pinch salt

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(Preheat to 180c; Bain Marie chocolate & butter then cool a little; beat eggs then add sugar & vanilla; fold in chocolate; stir in dry ingredients; bake in lined tin for 25mins.)

Instead of the usual vanilla extract, I used this paste, in which you can see the teeny tiny vanilla seeds. Lovely flavour and worth investing in.

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I used a small round cutter to create canapé-sized bites. The original recipe used buttercream to create the white fur trim on the Santa hats but I suspect this might be a bit of a sugar overload so I have chosen whipped cream instead. It’s brilliantly simple: pipe cream onto each brownie bite, top it with a (in my case, environmentally-unforgivable Egyptian) strawberry, and top that with a whipped cream bobble. Pleasing.

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The other idea I half-inched from Pinterest was one for festive-looking red spiral biscuits. The recipe was written by an American blogger (with gorgeous culinary ideas), so required a little conversion/translation into UK terminology [yes, I know cup measurements are not British but we can at least get cup measures here which, to the best of my knowledge, is not the case for cake flour]:

2 cups cake flour (measure 2 cups plain flour, remove 2 tbsp from each cup and replace with equal amount of cornflour)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup unsifted icing sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
283g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp flavouring (e.g. strawberry – I didn’t bother with this)
½ tsp food colouring
Hundreds & thousands
Have a 2 tbsp flour on hand in case your colouring and flavouring knocks the texture out of whack.

This recipe required a little creativity as I don’t have a food processor. I started by using a stick blender, which I hoped would do the same job but unfortunately its little blades got rather clogged up with the butter and it started to buckle under the pressure of the job, so I used a combination of wooden spoon and Kitchen Aid to finish combining. The batter is pretty sticky which makes it tricky to handle at times, but it produces a wonderfully light,short, buttery biscuit. Must remember next time to roll the layers more thinly (and more precisely) so that it’s easier to roll up into a uniform spiral.

Spiral Biscuits - the uneven layers are revealedRather unattractive log of goo, complete with pretty sprinkles Looking relatively good, if slightly uneven

Must also remember next time to give each biscuit much more space, because they spread quite a lot when baking. Square-ish spirals – not so pleasing.

Oops.  A bit crowded.

Also must line the sheet – as the recipe states – with baking paper rather than Lakeland’s wonderful foil-backed parchment, as the edges of the latter start to curl in the oven and push the edges of the biscuits back, which does not a perfect batch of biscuits make.

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A bit odd-looking but tasty, and valuable for the lessons I have learned in the process.