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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate

36 Hours

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It’s like 157 hours, only with less gore. Aged chocolate chip cookies. This is a very strange concept to me, and yet it’s been ambling round the food circuit/blogosphere for a few years now: aged cookie dough makes for much better cookies. The science behind this is, well, erm I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps that the vanilla extract has time to really infuse the dough. Or that the liquids have long enough to form real cohesive bonds with the gluten, or gluten substitute, making for a better texture. Or something else. I’m not really sure. What I do know is patience is a virtue. This is always true in baking – opening the oven door to check if your cake is done even when you know it isn’t is always going to be a bad idea. But here, the patience required is almost superhuman. Make chocolate chip cookie dough, littered with huge chunks of dark chocolate, and tiny crystals of sugar and salt and leave to sit in the fridge for 36 hours before baking. In that time, resist the urge to eat said cookie dough, which is one of a few items that tastes almost better in its raw form, wrong though you know it is.

If you do manage to successfully do this though you’ll be rewarded with fat, hefty cookies that are slightly crunchy on the outside from the sugar (sugar alert, I didn’t really cut back in this recipe as it would affect the texture too much, so they’re pretty sugar heavy) to a soft, chewy interior that in the very centre gives way to an almost cakelike crumb. These will lift you from the deepest of mid-afternoon slumps.

36-hour chocolate chip cookies
From New York Times

The chocolate in these cookies is key. I used three types of chocolate, maybe in part because I had underestimated how many chocolate chips I had and thus had to improvise slightly. I used 100g milk chocolate chips, 200g dark chocolate chips, and a 200g block of cooking chocolate, which I chopped into small chunks. The benefit of doing this is you end up with lots of little flakes of chocolate too, which melt in the batter and provide little flecks of chocolate, along with the big hearty solid chunks.

280g butter
275g light brown sugar
220g white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
575g gluten-free flour blend
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
500g chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

1. In a large bowl cream the butter and the brown and white sugars together for a few minutes until light and pale. One at a time beat in the eggs, then stir in the vanilla.

2. In a medium bowl stir the gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Slowly stir these into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined. Add the chocolate chunks, stir for 30 seconds or until these are fairly evenly distributed throughout the mixture, then take the huge ball of dough, wrap it in clingfilm and transfer to the fridge to age for 24-36 hours. Try not to eat it in this time.

3. Up top 36 hours later (or even longer, though I think much more scientific tests than mine showed no discernible improvement in taste and texture after 36 hours), preheat the oven to 180 C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop balls of the dough onto the baking sheets. The dough balls should be roughly the size of squash balls, and they should be flattened slightly before laying out an inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden, and leave to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, before transferring to cooling racks.

Makes 36 medium-large cookies (2-3-inches wide) that last well in an airtight container at room temperature, for about a week.


Written by guffblog

1st August 2011 at 13:46

Posted in Biscuits

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Have a heart

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Apparently in engineering you should always leave at least 2.5 times the diameter of the hole you are creating around the edges of the hole, to ensure structural stability. So said the boy as I held in my hands the wreck of what had been, mere moments earlier, a functioning square of chocolate brownie. Now it had a mangled hole in its centre and was broken in at least three places round the edges. Whoever decided on this particular rule was evidently not a baker. Or if they were, they had no eye for detail, since that would necessitate a 6-inch square brownie with a 1-inch heart in its centre. Who eats half-foot brownies?

This issue wasn’t helped by my cookie cutter being too short for the brownies which were essentially cubes, being as tall as they were wide. Whilst I could cut most of the way through them, the final few millimetres remained unscored, and thus I had to prod quite firmly to get the heart centres to come out. Cue more crumbled brownies, hastily stuffed into my mouth. A solution was finally thought of, which was to slice the brownies in half lengthwise to make them thinner, so the cutter could go all the way through them. A task which would have been moderately simple, if I hadn’t just chopped my brownie blocks into 16 squares each. An hour or so later, after much slicing, delicate fiddling, returning brownies to the freezer to cool down and mopping of sweaty brows, I had about 50 little brownie slices that looked quite cute, moderately edible and not too garishly pink either. Plus a lot of crumbs.

The morals of this story are clearly manifold, but the main takeaway should be these are quite fat brownies so make sure your cookie cutter is tall enough; failing that, slice the brownie blocks in half, before dividing into squares.

Dark and white chocolate brownies with a heart
From Smitten Kitchen

The white chocolate brownies weren’t as pink as I would have liked, though actually, unless these are for a special event and need to be pink, they are quite cute enough without the colouring. The white ones turned out a bit more cakey, making them easier to cut and handle without breaking; the dark chocolate ones were a little more fragile. I’d probably cook them for slightly less time in future (23-25 minutes instead of 25-30) in the hopes of making them a little more malleable.

Ingredients (white chocolate brownies)
85g white chocolate
113g butter
125g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
105g (2/3 cup) gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 drops red food colouring

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line an 8×8-inch baking tin with buttered foil.

2. In a large bowl in the microwave melt the butter and the white chocolate until 80% melted. Remove, and stir until completely melted.

3. Stir in the sugar. At this stage the mixture will look curdled, messy and generally like it’s going to turn into a big disaster. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and it should all come together into a beautiful glossy batter. Breathe again. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Mix together the gluten-free flour, salt and xanthan gum, then stir these into the batter. Add 2-3 drops of red food colouring, stir until the mixture is light pink, then scrape the batter into the lined pan. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and slightly puffed up on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove from pan, peel away foil, wrap in greaseproof paper (don’t freeze them in the foil or you’ll never get the bloody stuff off) and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

5. To make the dark chocolate brownies follow the same instructions, using 85g dark (70% cocoa) chocolate instead, and not adding the food colouring, and reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

6. When both batches of brownies are cooked and frozen, remove them from the freezer and using a sharp knife cut each brownie block into 16 2-inch squares. Working quickly, but delicately, cut out 1-inch hearts from the centre of each brownie using a heart-shaped cutter. I found the white (pink) brownies were easier to cut; the dark chocolate ones are a little more crumbly. Carefully swap the heart centres and insert the pink hearts into the dark brownies, and vice versa. Wrap the brownies in clingfilm and foil and freeze until required, for up to a month. Defrost for an hour at room temperature before serving.

Makes 32.

Written by guffblog

26th July 2011 at 13:21

Posted in Cakes

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Sugar sugar

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Has anyone else noticed that 9 recipes out of 10 use far too much sugar? I mean sure it makes for a chewier cookie but it also contributes hugely to the fact that coeliacs have less than perfect teeth. Years of calcium and vitamin D deficiency contributing to spots on your teeth, weak enamel and well, generally your mouth turning into a graveyard. Lovely. Whilst this seems, tragically, to be something of an inevitable process, I’d like to keep those crowns, bridges and big gaping holes at bay a while longer, thus the anti-sugar march at the moment. I mean, I realise it’s in everything we eat, we can’t get away from it if we want to continue to enjoy fruit, and yoghurt and beautiful carbohydrates, but is there really a need to consume such a large amount of refined sugars? And yes, I am aware that one way to cut down would be to eat fewer biscuits and cakes, something I am genuinely striving to do, but frankly I’d rather have a life with the odd under-sweetened biscuit than one without them at all. So, as a courtesy to my dentist, or indeed, my bank balance, I cut the sugar in these cookies to a third. Yes, I cut two-thirds of the sugar out. Result? Well, they tasted of, chocolate. And biscuit. I’m sure they weren’t quite as chewy as they could have been. Instead they were a little closer to shortbread, crispy and a little crumbly on the outside, but inside, fudgy and deeply, intensely chocolatey, enhanced by the little flecks of sea salt. They were rich, because of the dark chocolate, but not bitter; still, rich enough that one was enough. Tell me, where is the bad here?

I used 55g of sugar; I forgot to weigh the dough at the end, but totting up the ingredients that means these were roughly 15% sugar (and yes I know that doesn’t include the sugar in the chocolate, so it is cheating a bit – fine, let’s say 20% sugar). As compared to at least 35% sugar with the original recipe. Obviously, this isn’t going to work with every recipe; in some, sugar is a much more integral part of the recipe. A low-sugar meringue has very different properties to a high-sugar meringue. Trying to cut sugar in bread-making will lead to a rather flat loaf. But where the focus is on the chocolate, good quality, dark, intense, bitter chocolate, sugar should be a minor addition, just enough to mute the bitterness of the cocoa powder. Now fret not, this blog is not going to become all do-gooder, vegan, raw, natural, no-sugar healthy food. I’m merely pointing out that for me, all this excess sugar makes me uncomfortable. It should be a treat, a flavour enhancer (like salt), good quality and thus used sparingly for effect. So I guess this is more of a warning than anything else. Most of the recipes on here have fairly sensible sugar levels anyway, so if you, like me, automatically cut the sugar in a new recipe, you might have a shock if you try that with something on here. Bake these just the way they are first, eat as many as you like, almost guilt-free, then you can start playing around with them.

Double Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Stresscake, via Whipped


50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into large pieces
70g butter
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped into irregular chunks and slivers
95g (1/2 cup) gluten-free flour blend
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Tiny pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
55g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finishing salt

1. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl melt the first 50g chocolate and butter. Stir together and set aside briefly to cool. Chop the second lot of dark chocolate into chunks and slivers. Irregular is better.

3. In a small bowl stir together the gluten-free flour blend, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and first lot of salt. Set aside.

4. Into the chocolate and butter mix, beat the sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture a bit at a time until it’s all been added. Finally stir in the chocolate chunks.

5. Using a tablespoon scoop up the dough and roll into roughly 1-inch balls. Arrange about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and squash slightly with your palm. Lightly sprinkle, or press, the finishing salt into the top of the cookies; use sparingly.

6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, or until spread out, slightly crispy-looking at the edges and smelling divine. Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely on the baking sheet, then devour.

Makes 12-15.

Written by guffblog

16th June 2011 at 20:07

Posted in Biscuits

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Loafing around

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I’ve made this cake once before, following Heidi’s recipe more closely then. That time the cake turned out as she described, thick, dense and fudgey, sunken in the middle and so gooey it had to be eaten with a fork, rather than fingers. I decided to make a few changes this time, not intending to change the end result too much, but more out of convenience. I used a little more chocolate than was called for and considerably less sugar (less than half) – the cake wasn’t noticeably not sweet, leading me to believe that in most recipes sugar is used more for texture than flavour; certainly in many types of biscuit this is true, but I thought it would have less effect in a cake. I also played around with the flours, using teff flour to give it a bit of a nutty flavour and a little more structure, as well as plenty of tapioca starch. To counteract the absorption effect of the tapioca (in some gf recipes you’ll see it substituted for arrowroot or even xanthan gum; it’s very fine and has thickening, stabilising properties) I added in an extra egg too. The result was, well, a completely different chemical composition from the original recipe so I suppose it’s not too surprising that the cake was sturdier (some good binding starches in there), richer (more chocolate and less sugar so a “darker” taste) and didn’t collapse (extra raising agent in the form of an additional egg). The texture was that of a well-made chocolate sponge, springy, with lots of tiny air bubbles, but still sturdy and a little dense from the chocolate. To take it from great to sublime, I would definitely add a couple of handfuls of chocolate chunks to the batter next time.

Rich chocolate loaf cake
Adapted a lot from Nigella Lawson, via 101 Cookbooks

The base recipe was for a 9×5-inch loaf tin, and of course mine are smaller, at 8×4 inches and I still refuse to buy more when all I need to do is a little bit of maths (or get my muffin trays out), so the recipe below is for an 8×4 tin, and makes 4 mini muffins as well with the batter, or should fit perfectly in a 9×5 tin.

125g medium dark chocolate (60% cocoa), melted
230g (1 cup) butter, softened
100g (1 very, very loosely packed cup) dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
170g (1 heaped cup) gluten-free flour blend (50% white rice flour, 30% brown teff flour, 20% tapioca starch)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml boiling water

1. Line your loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Make sure the paper extends a little over the top of the tin, in case the cake expands too much. Preheat the oven to 190 C.

2. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl beat the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

3. Mix the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Stir about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter/sugar/eggs until fully combined, then stir in about 1/3 of the boiling water. Continue adding the flour, and water until everything is thoroughly mixed in. The batter should be thin and slightly bubbly, roughly the texture of chocolate milk (yep, really that thin). Carefully pour the batter into the loaf tin, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the batter and the top of the pan. With any remaining batter fill some muffin cases.

4. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes at 190 C. Then turn the oven down to 165 C and bake for a further 10 minutes (15-20 if using a 9×5 pan). For the muffins, bake at the higher temperature for 12 minutes and then remove from the oven.

5. Remove the loaf from the oven and leave to cool completely in the pan overnight. Serve next day.

Makes 1 8×4 loaf plus 4 muffins, or 1 9×5 loaf. Keeps well at room temperature in an airtight container.

Written by guffblog

7th June 2011 at 18:03

Posted in Cakes

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Playing the goat

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As a rule I am not a fan of strong cheeses. In fact, any food that smells like it is four weeks past its best (and yes, that does include durian) is not on my favourites list. The annoying thing is I *want* to like strong cheese. There are just so many delicious types of cheese out there that look awesome and seem so sophisticated but, y’know, they’re mouldy and smell like the inside of an overused trainer. Whatever, to preserve my façade of an educated foodie with an adventurous palate I’ll stick to the “Oh blue cheese, I would but it’s not gluten free I’m afraid” line. On which point, if anyone has a definitive answer to whether blue cheeses are gluten free that would be great, on the very small off-chance I attempt to try them in future. Given the mould is grown on bread before being injected into the cheeses my instinct is to say they’re not gf, but how much gluten can a mould spore pick up? The Food and Drink Directory only has blue cheese dressings, and doesn’t cover blocks of cheese, but let’s be honest, how many salad dressings do you buy which contain real ingredients? Perhaps this ambiguity means I am spared from sweaty trainer cheese for all eternity. Hooray. Who knew being coeliac could have such golden upsides.

Goats’ cheese (and really, where does the apostrophe come in that? Is it the cheese of just one goat, so goat’s cheese, or lots of goats’ cheese? I’m thinking the latter). This is another one I want to like but I find it often tastes kind of, well, goaty. Did you know that especially goaty goats’ cheese occurs when a boy goat is kept a leetle bit too close to the girl goat who’s churning out all the milk. Not that close, just close enough for the girl goat to get butterflies in her stomach and start producing too many pheromones which go into the milk and make it taste of, well, goat attraction. Yuk. Since I don’t know where my local goat dairy is to buy products from, and I’m likely to get thrown out if I walk into my supermarket and start asking just how close their nannies get to Billy, I have to content myself with buying “mild” goats’ cheese and trying not to look like a complete food pleb. Marvellous.

Anyhoo, all of this food dribble isn’t getting us much closer to the main event which is, of course, goats’ cheese brownies. Apparently goats’ cheese goes well with chocolate and I can see why. It’s slightly sharp so it cuts through the rich darkness of the brownies nicely, without being overwhelming. Now don’t panic, this is definitely goats’ cheese desserts for beginners. Your mild goats’ cheese (if you’re not a wimp feel free to use stronger stuff) is mixed with an equal part of plain old cream cheese and some sugar as well to make it taste more desserty, plus there’s a lovely thick, intense layer of dark chocolate brownie under there too. The result is none of my guinea pigs could taste the goats’ cheese and looked a bit puzzled when I told them about it. Knowing it was there I could detect it, but it didn’t detract from the general awesomeness of these little bites. Without making another batch with just cream cheese to compare I can’t say for certain that the goats’ cheese improves these, but I suspect it does; they were damn good, and unlike other cream cheese brownies not too sickly.

Goats’ cheese brownies
Adapted from Obviously sweet

I used my trusty 9×9 silicone baking pan to cook the brownies in. The result was a slightly thinner brownie than an 8×8 pan would produce and a shorter cooking time. I suggest these would need 25-30 minutes in 8×8 size, as opposed to my 20-25 minutes.

200g dark chocolate (70%)
80g butter
2 eggs
80g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
85g gluten-free flour (I used half rice flour, half tapioca starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

150g mild goats’ cheese
150g cream cheese
35g sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Chop the chocolate into chunks and melt in a bowl in the microwave with the butter. Remove and stir at 30 second intervals, and when the butter is all melted remove the bowl from the microwave and stir until the melted butter melts all the chocolate. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar. Stir in the vanilla extract, then fold in the coffee, gluten-free flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix until completely combined. Spread 80% of this mixture into an 9×9 (or 8×8) greased (or silicone) square baking pan.

3. In a medium bowl beat together the goats’ cheese and cream cheese. Stir in the sugar and salt and beat in the egg. It will be pretty runny. That’s fine. Pour this mixture on top of the brownie mix in the pan. Spoon the remaining 20% of the brownie mixture on top of the cheese topping (it won’t cover all of it), and using a butter knife swirl gently.

4. Bake the brownies in the oven for 20-25 minutes (5 minutes more for an 8×8 pan), or until the cheese filling is turning a goldeny brown at the edges, and the brownies are crisp on top. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs attached.

5. Remove the brownies from the oven and for ease of slicing, cut into squares immediately. The heat of the brownies will help the knife to slice through them. Alternatively wait until they are completely cool and slice with a knife dipped in hot water and dried.

6. The brownies are best left to chill in the fridge before serving; they firm up a little and become more fudgey.

Makes 36 1 1/2 inch square brownies, or thereabouts. These keep well in the fridge, but do dry out a little bit. After 2 days they are best eaten at room temperature for increased squidginess.

Written by guffblog

18th May 2011 at 19:11

Posted in Cakes

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We hear so much about how raw food is supposed to be good for you – it’s got more nutrients, the enzymes in it aren’t denatured by cooking, it has more taste – and none of it has me convinced. Raw vegetables are great, sashimi, yum, fresh fruit, fab, but at the end of the day I like most of my food to be cooked, especially if it’s a tart. However, this recipe had me intrigued; not only does it involve no cooking (given the desiccated coconut and dates were probably dried in an industrial drier at about 400 degrees it’s probably a stretch to say it’s truly, completely raw) but the chocolate filling is made with avocado. I’m delighted to report that it actually tasted really nice (no hint of avocado-ness in there) and definitely hit the dessert spot, without being too sweet. Of course, if you need something unhealthy in there you could always add some whipped cream, or a bit more honey, without feeling too guilty.

Raw strawberry chocolate tart
From Clean Green Simple

Whilst this tart is not rich in the sense of lots of fat, it is very high in protein and full of fruit and for that reason will fill you up much more quickly than the same-sized portion of a sugary, carbohydratey chocolate tart. So keep the servings on the small side.

1 cup walnuts
6 dates
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1 ripe avocado, chopped
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons milk
Pinch of salt
200g strawberries, cleaned and sliced

1. In a food processor blend the walnuts, desiccated coconut and dates until they form a crumbly, sticky paste. You might like to leave a few walnuts in bigger chunks, to add interest, though the base will be more crumbly if you do this. Press this into a 7-inch tart tin with a removable base and leave to set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

2. Make the filling by mashing the avocado with the cocoa powder, honey and salt. Pour in the milk, a little at a time; add more if you want the filling to be a little creamier, and mash until the mixture is completely smooth, with no lumps. Spread the filling over the base.

3. Arrange the sliced strawberries decoratively on top of the filling and return tart to the fridge until ready to serve.

Serves at least 6. This keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days without the strawberries; the strawberries will dry out if they sit on top for more than a day though.

Written by guffblog

2nd May 2011 at 20:19

Posted in Desserts

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Does anyone else find they always have more recipes for egg yolks than egg whites? I freeze any surplus egg whites in ice cube trays, but have yet to embark on a project that uses all these solid little cubes of proteiny goodness. And instead of adding to the great unused bag of egg whites, I decided this weekend to do a quick recipe to use the three spare whites I had left over from making lime curd. Total time for this recipe is 30 minutes, start to finish, including washing up I think. Super quick, super easy, you will have all the ingredients on hand, guaranteed, and apparently French women snack on these with their afternoon coffee. You need no more urging; go make.

Chocolate financiers
From Gluten-Free Girl, from David Lebovitz

1 cup (100g packet) ground almonds
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Lightly grease a 12-mold bun tin.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the ground almonds, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Beat in the egg whites and almond extract, before adding the cooled melted butter.

3. Spoon the mixture into the bun tin and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch but still moist in the centre.

4. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tins before turning them out.

Makes 12 financiers. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Written by guffblog

27th April 2011 at 19:23

Posted in Cakes

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