17 November 2017

SPICED SOFT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Right now, there is less than seven weeks until the end of the year. Have you started thinking about this year's Christmas cookie platter? As you can tell, I have. These lovelies are so soft and airy, with a delightful combination of cocoa and spices, they are sure to brighten up the platter. If you are worried about the white pepper in them, fret not, that is the same delicious spice combination as the one in Speculaas cookies. And, if you are really feeling festive, you can dip them or just decorate them with a bit of melted chocolate, but I chose to serve them just as they are, lovely in their simplicity. I do recommend letting them cool down a bit before serving, as they tend to be too soft right after coming out of the oven.


Ingredients
200 grams soft flour
50 grams cornflour (corn starch)
¼ teaspoons baking soda
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
50 grams butter
100 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams plain yogurt

Preparation
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and whisk together. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat and add vanilla and spices and whisk until everything is combined and smooth. Set it aside to cool slightly. Take a large bowl, and sift in the flour, cornflour, and the baking soda. Make a little well in the middle, then pour in the chocolate mixture and the yogurt, and lightly mix with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out the batter and arrange the cookies on a large cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a bit of room between them, as they will spread a bit, and this will keep them round and pretty. Bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F) for 8-10 minutes. As they will be soft when you take them out of the oven, let them cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them and putting them on a wire rack. Yields 20 cookies.

10 November 2017

NO-BAKE NOUGAT CHOCOLATE CAKE

No-bake cakes, along with ice-cream cakes, are among my favourite things to make. They are always a good idea after a hearty meal. Or just with a cup of coffee, for that matter. This four-layer beauty is so easy and quick to make; you will love it. Layer upon layer of chocolate, nougat, and cream. I used Viennese nougat, a gorgeous chocolate and hazelnut confection. You can make a more lavish decoration, if you like, or you can keep it minimalist, like I did - with just a drizzle of melted dark chocolate.





Ingredients
For the hazelnut base
150 grams hazelnut wafers
120 grams butter, softened
50 grams icing sugar, sifted
50 grams finely ground hazelnuts
For the whipped cream
100 ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the nougat layer
150 grams soft nougat
250 ml heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatine
50 grams dark chocolate
For the decoration
100 ml heavy cream
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanila

Preparation
Start by lining a round cake ring (15 cm) with acetate, for an easier cake removal. Make sure the acetate strip is tall enough for you to pour in the fillings. Once you have prepared the pan, crush the wafers in a food processor, but not too finely, leave a variety of crumb sizes, it will make the texture better. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl, and add in the softened butter. Start mixing with a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, until the mixture starts to come together. At that point, sift in the icing sugar, and add the ground hazelnuts, then mix everything together until a soft but pliable base forms. Do not worry if the base seems to be a tad soft, it will firm up in the refrigerator. Once done, place the cake ring on the serving platter, and press the base in. Set it aside and start making the fillings.
Take a large bowl, and pour in the heavy cream, along with the icing sugar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, then slowly spread it onto the cake base. You can level the whipped cream layer, or you can leave the top with a texture, the choice is yours. Place the platter in the refrigerator, and proceed to make the nougat layer.
Cut the nougat into small pieces, and place it into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour 50 ml of heavy cream over it, then place the saucepan over medium heat, so the nougat can slowly melt. Make sure to stir frequently while it melts, to prevent burning. Once melted, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for up to 30 minutes, so it can cool down, but still be pourable. In the meantime, pour 2 tablespoons of cold water over the gelatine, and let it bloom.
When the nougat mixture has cooled sufficiently, whip up the rest of the cream until soft peaks form, then add in the melted nougat, and fold it thorough. Melt the chocolate over low heat, and let it cool down slightly. Dissolve the bloomed gelatine over low heat (or in the microwave), but be careful not to let it boil. Take a little bit of the nougat and cream mixture, stir it in the dissolved gelatine and then pour it back in, and fold it through, incorporate.
Pour half of that mixture over the whipped cream layer, and return it to the refrigerator. Take the melted and cooled chocolate, and pour it into the reserved mixture. Fold it through gently with a spatula, then spread it very carefully over the nougat layer. You can leave it like that, or take a skewer and mix two layers, giving them a marble effect. Place everything into the refrigerator overnight.
To decorate the cake, whip the heavy cream with the cocoa powder, icing sugar, and vanilla. Take the cake out of the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate strip, then spread some of the whipped cream around it, and use the rest of it to decorate the top of the cake. Serve chilled. Yields 8 servings.

03 November 2017

LEFTOVER CANDY BROWNIES

I used to joke all the time about the possibility of having leftover candy. Because how can one have leftover candy? Well, whether you have some leftover candy bars, or you simply want to make a pan of rich, delicious brownies, this is the recipe for you. These brownies are egg-free, with a vegan and even a gluten-free option. If you do want to make them vegan, be sure to use sweets that are also vegan; and the same goes for gluten-free.
When they come out of the oven, they will be too soft to cut up and serve, so be sure to let them cool down completely, or even leave them for a few hours in the refrigerator. They will firm up, and you will be able to get nice, clean cuts for serving. Because they are so very rich, they do not need any other toppings, and I do recommend you serve them with a tall glass of milk, or a cup of strong coffee.


Ingredients
120 grams plain flour
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
20 grams cornflour
½ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams light brown sugar
250 ml whole milk
75 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons dark rum
8-10 standard size candy bars

Preparation
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornflour, and the baking powder into a large bowl, then add in the light brown sugar, and whisk well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, rum, and the vanilla bean paste. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and whisk until just combined. The batter will be runny at this point. Take a square baking pan (20x20 cm), and line it well with baking paper.
Pour in the batter and slightly shake the pan so it distributes itself evenly. Unwrap the candy bars and arrange them over the top of the batter, then bake in a preheated oven, at 170˚C (340˚F), for 18-20 minutes. Check for doneness even before that, so they do not overbake. Remove the pan from the oven, and let them cool completely before cutting, this will ensure nice, clean cuts. Yields 16 brownie squares.

30 October 2017

COCONUT CHERRY BREAKFAST PASTRIES

Breakfast pastries are one of life’s simple pleasures. Especially on a chilly morning. Sweet and fragrant filling wrapped in a soft, fluffy dough. Simply divine with a cup of hot tea. Feel free to add some sliced toasted almonds, they make for a wonderful crunchy surprise in these pastries.

Coconut cherry breakfast pastries recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

Ingredients
For the dough
600 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
200 grams plain yogurt
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
180 ml hot water
For the filling
200 grams sour cherries
1 tablespoon semolina
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar, and whisk it very well. Take the boiling water, and pour it into the yogurt, whisking constantly. Add in the oil, mix well, and then pour it over the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. At this point, add a bit more flour if you need, but don’t add too much, the dough needs to be as soft as possible.
Keep kneading the dough with your hands for a couple of minutes, until it becomes really smooth and slightly tacky. It will not stick to your hands and you will be able to shape it into a smooth ball. Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
To make the filling, chop up the cherries, and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle in the semolina, sugar, and the coconut, and mix really well. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes, so the semolina and the coconut can absorb the liquid that cherries release.
When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly, shape it into a ball and cut it into 20 equal pieces, then flatten each piece into a circle. Take about a teaspoon or so of the filling, and place it in the centre of each circle, then wrap the dough around it tightly, and make a few slashes on the surface. Let them rest for about an hour in a warm spot. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for about 20 minutes.
Note: If you wish, you can brush the tops with a bit of butter as soon as you take them out of the oven, for a softer crust.

20 October 2017

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH TRUFFLES

Chocolate chip cookies are delicious, and loved by almost everyone, but if you don't feel like baking, cookie dough chocolate chip truffles are equally delicious! They are also completely egg-free, which is great if you can't or don't want to eat raw eggs. One other thing that these have, and which I love, is the type of flour.
I have a slight aversion towards using uncooked flour, to put it succinctly, and the same goes for the baked flour which is a common replacement in recipes. So in desserts like this one, I use oat flour. To me, oats taste great in these truffles, and they also make them gluten free, which is great. Feel free to use only one or the other type of chocolate, if you prefer, I simply like this combination the best.


Ingredients
For the truffles
60 grams butter, softened
50 grams granulated sugar
50 grams light brown sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
80 grams oat flour
100 grams dark chocolate chips, chopped
45 ml heavy cream
For the chocolate coating
100 grams milk chocolate
100 grams dark chocolate

Preparation
Take a medium bowl, add in the softened butter, and mix it with an electric mixer on medium, until creamy and lighter in colour. Add in both types of sugar, along with the vanilla bean paste, then blend on high speed until very fluffy (2-3 minutes, depending on your mixer). Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the oat flour, and blend it in. Pour in the milk, and mix on high for about a minute, until completely smooth. Tip in the chopped chocolate chips, and fold them through.
Take a small cookie scoop, and scoop the cookie dough onto a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. Roll them into little spheres, and place them into the refrigerator for about an hour. When you are ready for dipping the truffles, melt the chocolate in bain-marie, then take the truffles out of the refrigerator, and quickly dip them into the chocolate. Place the coated truffles on a baking sheet, and let the chocolate set. You can decorate them further if you wish. Yields 12 truffles.