New Toy Chocolate Fondants

Last week was my 21st birthday. Despite the fact that, in England, the legal drinking age is 18, so 21 brings with it no real special privileges that one didn’t already hold at age 20, it’s still kind of a big deal.

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So I did what any normal 20-going-on-21-year-old would do to celebrate: I slaved away all day in the kitchen to create the most lavish 21st/ 4th of July BBQ the world has ever seen. Or at least, that I’ve ever seen.

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But that is a story for a different time.

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The story here is about my 21st birthday present. For a 21st, people (lucky people) tend to get jewelry or expensive watches or things they will cherish forever etc etc. Luckily my parents (having known me now for 21 full years) know me well enough to appreciate that jewelry and watches really aren’t my thing, and aimed for something a little closer to my heart.

And they succeeded. The morning of my birthday I opened up a brand new KitchenAid stand mixer. My mum and I have had this running joke that I will have to hold out till my wedding to receive a KitchenAid stand mixer as a gift, so opening on now was pretty surprising. (My sister will tell you that I cried- I didn’t, but it was close.)

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Then I went to Italy for a week (again, a story for another time) so I am finally christening it today! We currently have a guest staying from America, and my sister insisted that she tried my chocolate fondants, so they seemed as good a thing as any to bake first.

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Chocolate fondants are surprisingly easy to bake, and always sure to impress. The one tricky thing is timing the bake perfectly to ensure they hold their shape but are gooey in the middle.

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Chocolate Fondants (this is a BBC recipe)

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120g butter (plus extra to grease the ramekins)

cocoa powder for dusting

120g chocolate

120g caster sugar

2 eggs and 2 yolks

100g plain flour

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Begin by melting a small amount of butter in a saucepan, then brush liberally onto the sides of the ramekins (this recipe makes 5 fondants). Then, put the ramekins in the fridge to allow the butter to harden. Once it’s hard, take out of the fridge and apply another layer of melted butter. This step is crucial to the fondants coming out easily! Then dust each ramekin with cocoa powder and put back into the fridge.

Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together until they become light and fluffy (this is where the mixer comes in handy!) Sift in the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the chocolate and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins and put back into the fridge until you want to cook them.

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Heat the oven to 180 degrees, and bake the fondants for 12-15 minutes. It can be a bit tricky to know when they’re done, but the top should be forming a crust and coming away from the sides. If they seem too soft, put them back in for a minute- but don’t overcook them or they will dry out!

Serve immediately with ice cream or cream, or naked and enjoy!!

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xxR

Valentines Day Treat Chocolate Tarts with Salted Caramel Pretzel Praline

It’s nearly Valentines day. I’m not a great one for Valentines day. This is sort of because I don’t really see the fuss. Also, Valentines day also happens to be my boyfriend’s birthday, and, understandably, he is not a great one for Valentines day either.

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It’s hard to be a great one for Valentines day as just a one. It’s hard to get into the spirit when someone else is just wishing everyone would stop talking about Valentines day and they could just get on with celebrating their birth in peace.

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It’s fine, I totally get it.

To be honest, I’m sort of glad. I find the whole thing a bit much- and a lot of pressure!

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So to help all of you who might be freaking out about what to do for that special someone- be it what to cook, where to eat, should you wear sexy underwear, if so, how sexy is acceptable and how sexy is too far… Personally I avoid sexy underwear, because I can’t deal with these sort of big questions.

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These tarts are the sexy undies of the pastry world. Sexy but also fun, which is, you know, ideal.

Rich chocolate moussey filling in a crisp pastry case with pretzel praline on top.

Yes pretzels. And caramel. Salted caramel really is all the rage these days, in case you didn’t know. And its super delicious. And its kind of fun. So if you aren’t ready for the sexy knickers, these will go down just as well.

Chocolate Tarts with Salted Caramel Pretzel Praline

For the pastry:

100g plain flour

50g butter, cold

25g icing sugar

splash of cold water

Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar.

Add a splash of cold water to bring it together into a dough. Use just enough to allow it to form a ball- too much and it will turn into a sticky mess.

Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. While it is resting, make your praline.

For the praline:

100g caster sugar

about 1/2 a small bag of pretzels

Arrange the pretzels in a baking tray on a piece of baking paper.

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This looks so beautiful, don’t you think? Let’s see another picture…

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Put the caster sugar in a pan over a medium heat and melt. Once it is a golden brown colour, pour it over the pretzels. Be careful because it will be super super hot. Sprinkle with some sea salt if you want extra saltiness, but this is up to you!

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Leave it to set for at least an hour, or until it has hardened and set. Then you can break up chunks to decorate your tarts, or just eat it.

Once your dough has rested, you need to blind bake it. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and carefully line a muffin tray.

Cut out circle of dough just big enough to fill the muffin cases. Fill with a piece of baking paper and some baking beans, or, if you don’t have any, dry rice or beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

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For the filling:

180ml double cream

120ml milk

300g chocolate

2 eggs, beaten

Bring the cream and milk to the boil, then add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Allow to cool slightly, then mix in the egg.

Pour the filling into the pastry cases and bake at 100 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

When they are cool, turn out and place  a pretzel praline piece on top.

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You know you love me!

xxR

Ginger Treacle Sponge Pudding

This pudding is the perfect antidote to a cold, January night. These days, everything can look a bit bleak. Christmas is over, and the New Year (for me, anyway) brings the promise of long days in the library, piles of reading and a dissertation to write. Not to mention the anxiety about what to do after uni finishes!

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I feel like these months are just the place holder, until we can get going with Spring and Summer.

Sometimes, the best way to overcome the January blues is with a big ol’ cup of tea, a hearty slice of pud. So put on your slippers (I got some new ones for Christmas and I literally haven’t taken them off since!) and curl up next to the fire and tuck into some pudding!

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Now, I must admit, suet would not be my go-to choice for desserts. This is mainly because I’m veggie, so the whole idea of suet is kind of just gross. But I had some left over from the Christmas pudding that I made this year (it was the vegetarian alternative, of course) and I figured it would be better in a delicious pudding than sat on the shelf in my pantry, waiting for its best before date to pass. I was actually very pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It was delicious. But then again, anything warm and syrupy would definitely hit the spot!

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This was also sort of inspired by a dessert I had recently at a vegetarian restaurant in London, called The Gate. I promised myself that I would not write reviews of restaurants on this blog, and strictly stick to things I have baked myself. But this was too good not to share. Plus, since I’m only going to mention the dessert, it’s not really a restaurant review at all. (But, on that note- the starters and mains were also delicious!) So, we ordered the ‘dessert mezze,’ which was basically a huge platter with a small portion of every dessert on the menu on it. (We did share between four- don’t worry!)

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It included a whole load of delicious things, including creme brûlée, apple and fig crumble, chocolate and chestnut torte and pear and star anise tarte tatin. Everything on the plate was delicious, even down to the mint leaf used to garnish. But my favourite element by far was the ginger sponge pudding with toffee sauce. It was so tasty: the perfect balance of ginger spice and sugary treacleness. I just had to try and replicate it!

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Steamed Ginger Treacle Pudding

175g plain flour

50g soft brown sugar

75g suet (or vegetable suet, if you prefer)

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

1/2 tablespoon golden syrup

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

150 ml milk

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So the method for this recipe is really simple. All you have to do, is get a large bowl, throw all the ingredients in and mix well!!

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Then, get a pudding basin, or a medium sized bowl will work just as well, as long as it won’t be get broken or damaged while being boiled! Grease it well with butter. Then pour the mixture into the basin.

Making the lid for the pudding can be a little tricky. Firstly, grease a large piece of greaseproof paper with butter. Then lay it over a piece of tin foil that is roughly the same size, if a little larger. Fold them to make a pleat in the centre of both sheets. Lay over the top of the pudding, with the greaseproof paper facing the pudding, so that the tin foil is on top. Fold around the sides of the bowl, so the it is airtight, and tie securely with string. Cut off any excess paper or tin foil.

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Now you need to steam your pudding. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. In order to get the pudding out once it is cooked, it is a good idea to fold a long sheet of tin foil into thirds. Lay it under the pudding in the saucepan, so that the two ends are sticking out, like handles.

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Place the pudding in the boiling water and boil for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is spongey and soft. Turn out onto a serving plate.

To make the treacly sauce, simply put a good four tablespoons of golden syrup into a saucepan, and heat gently until it has loosened and started to melt. Pour over the pudding to serve.

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Happy New Year!

xxR