Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Classic Chocolate Cake

Hi everyone, I hope you have all been keeping well. I know I have virtually disappeared from the virtual world. Concerned friends - bless your hearts - have been asking why I haven't been on Twitter, Facebook or email. It's simple: something's got to give. I have been so stressed with my daily routine and new challenges, I haven't had time to eat proper meals ... let alone cook, bake or blog. And I foresee it will be this way for a while, unfortunately. I'll still blog, although not as regularly. But I promise that as soon as I get my stuff sorted out, I'll be back. You can hold me to that. :)


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I baked this Classic Chocolate Cake some time ago. I wanted a recipe which called for melted chocolate, and realised that there weren't that many available - most use cocoa powder. So eventually, I nailed it down to 2 - one from Taste and the other from Donna Hay. Eventually, Taste won because Donna's recipe required almond meal, which I didn't have enough of. Also, her instructions were rather sketchy, and I get nervous whenever I'm unsure.

Anyway, the thing is, I can't tell you if the cake was good because I didn't eat it. No, it's true - I was really too exhausted to eat. My family did say it was nice, though ... there were no leftovers. But then, we never have leftovers whenever I bake chocolate cakes! So, the question is, do you trust their judgement?

Recipe
(from Taste.com.au)
Serves 8

- 1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 225g unsalted butter, softened, chopped
- 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup (125ml) milk

* Note: I used Valrhona cocoa powder and Valrhona Equatoriale 55% for this cake. I also halved the measurements.

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 24cm round springform cake pan.
- I used a 20cm cake pan ... which explains why the cake looks so pathetically short. Perhaps an 18cm pan would have been better.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Set aside.

3. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (don't let bowl touch water). Cool slightly.

4. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. With beaters on medium speed, add vanilla, then add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour in cooled chocolate and beat until well combined. Beat in a third of sifted ingredients, followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until all ingredients are incorporated, beating until smooth.

5. Pour mixture into the pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack to cool completely.
- If you are halving the measurements, check for doneness at around 30mins.

6. To serve, spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake using a hot palette knife, then decorate with chocolate curls.
- I opted for Donna Hay's Chocolate Fudge Icing instead. See the recipe below.

Chocolate Fudge Icing
(from Donna Hay)

- 250g dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup (125ml) pouring (single) cream
- 70g butter, chopped

1. For the chocolate fudge icing, place the chocolate, cream and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove and set aside to cool completely.

2. Beat in an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Spread icing on the cooled cake. Serves 10.

Note: Again, I halved the measurements and it was actually more than enough for the cake. However, I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, the icing just couldn't be fluffed! I don't know where I went wrong but eventually, the consistency remained quite runny, as you can see from the photos ... so I poured it onto the cake and left it at that. Ah well, it was for home consumption anyway.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Trissalicious Pistachio Cookies


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I have been wanting to make these Pistachio Cookies for a long time now, ever since I saw them at Trissa's blog. They look exactly like those biscuits I saw everywhere in Italy. Ah, how I adore Italian sweets. I remember during one of the trips, I stayed at a hotel that was a stone's throw away from an amazing pasticceria ... and I went crazy just looking at the sheer variety of sweets and pastries that were displayed. Needless to say, I'd drop by daily, buy an assortment, and have them with a latte machiatto.

Those were the days. I was as thin as a stick and could eat all the sugar I liked ... and not worry. OK, I am still as thin as a stick, but I can't eat all the sugar I like without worrying. That's aging for you.


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So, back to these Trissalicious Pistachio Cookies. They are wicked, wicked, wicked. Too easy to eat. Everyone fought over them ... yeah, that's how good. Try them and you'll understand.

PS: Tell you a secret? I used pistachios leftover from Chinese New Year! Tsk, tsk, I know. I always buy these assorted packets of nuts just in case guests come over, but who am I kidding? Year after year, NO ONE ever visits! ;)



Recipe
(from Trissalicious - thanks, Trissa!)

- 90g PLUS 100g Pistachios (raw, shelled) - I used ready-to-eat, slightly salted pistachios
- 100g almond meal
- 120g caster sugar
- 50g egg whites (from around 1 to 2 eggs)
- Green food colouring (optional) - I skipped this

1. Lightly toast the pistachios for around 10 minutes* in a preheated oven at 160c. Chop the first 90 grams of pistachio finely (you can use a food processor for this) and the other 100 grams of pistachios roughly.
* Note: You don't have to do this if you are using ready-to-eat pistachios.

2. In a bowl place the finely chopped 90g of pistachios, almond meal, sugar and egg whites. Mix well (you can add a few drops of food colouring now if you wish) until you form a paste.

3. Scoop the cookie batter and form into little balls, (at this point, if you find the batter too sticky add a little bit more almond meal to the paste) then roll them in the remaining 100 grams of pistachios.

4. Place then in a baking sheet, around 2 cm apart and bake for around 13 minutes at 170°C (fan forced).

5. Dust with icing sugar when cool.


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