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Chocolate espresso cake

24 Mar

Is there anything in the world more tempting than a decadent, freshly baked piece of chocolate cake served with a cup of freshly brewed quality coffee?

I recently teamed up with Kenwood South Africa by welcoming their new Espresso Machine with integrated grinder into my home – a beautifully made stainless steel machine that has been bringing us a lot of joy in the mornings by making superb coffees and espressos. I love a manual espresso machine and prefer the involved craft to an automated machine. But the coolest bonus feature is the integrated grinder, meaning you can pour freshly roasted beans into the top funnel and press a button to get just the right amount of ground coffee directly into your pod filter. You can even adjust the grinding level with a bezel on the side.

I have now also mastered the steam nozzle and have been making “real deal” microfoam to go with my flat whites. It’s such a pleasure to finally figure this out! I’m not pouring patterns yet, but coffee making is certainly becoming a true passion.

There are many recipes where you can use freshly brewed coffees and espressos as an ingredient, so I’ve decided to bring you this easy, decadent, super moist, dark chocolate cake that features a strong cup of coffee in the batter (I’ve actually used 3 shots of espresso in my cup) and about half an espresso in the chocolate cream cheese frosting. The result is a deeply flavourful chocolate cake with a hint of bitter coffee – not overpowering at all.

The chocolate cream cheese frosting is very soft at room temperature in warm weather (almost like a soft mousse), so it’s best to store the cake in the fridge and serve it either cold or at room temperature. It will keep well for at least a week, if refrigerated, so it’s a great do-ahead dessert or tea time treat.

This machine retails for around R8 999 on various online platforms and in stores. Thank you Kenwood for bringing such joy into my home! I cannot wait to try out more coffee recipes.

(Shop this Kenwood Espresso Machine on Yuppiechef.)

Note: This recipe is based on an unidentified magazine cut-out for a fabulous “chocolate coffee cake” that my aunt Ena Coetzee from Wellington sent to me many years ago. She’s been baking this cake for decades, icing it with a simple, thick cocoa glaze. I’ve baked and adapted it many times for different occasions, but the original cake recipe is one of the best I’ve ever come across. I do prefer the cream cheese frosting to a glaze, but you can top it with your favourite chocolate or coffee based recipe for frosting (buttercream or glaze etc.) , if you don’t like cream cheese frostings.

Take a look at my how-to video:

Ingredients: (makes a 20cm 2-layer cake)

For the chocolate coffee cake:

  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 70 g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
  • 7 ml (1,5 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) baking soda
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 400 g (2 cups) light brown sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) canola oil or olive oil
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 250 ml strong coffee (I brewed a triple espresso coffee)

For the chocolate cream cheese espresso frosting:

  • 2 x 230 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 375 g (3 cups) powdered icing sugar, sifted
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature

Method:

For the cakes: Preheat the oven to 180 C and line 2 x 20cm loose bottom cake pans with non-stick baking paper (and spray with non-stick spray). Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Ass the sugar and stir to mix. In a second bowl, add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well using an electric whisk, then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until well mixed. Add the coffee and mix well, then pour into the prepared tins and bake at 180 C for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins. In the meantime, brew a single espresso and leave to cool.

For the frosting: In a medium-large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, butter and vanilla and whisk until very creamy. Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder, and carefully whisk until fully incorporated. Add the espresso and whisk until very creamy. At this point the frosting will be very soft, so you can refrigerate it for 1 hour to firm up if the weather is warm. To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake plate, top with frosting, them top with the second layer of cake and frost all over. Neaten the edges by wiping off any excess frosting, them refrigerate the cake to firm up and set. Serve at room temperature or straight from the fridge, with a cup of freshly brewed espresso of coffee of your choice.

Note: This recipe was created in collaboration with Kenwood South Africa. All recipe content, photography and videography by Ilse van der Merwe. Video music by Hooksounds.com.

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Fudgy fig blondies

2 Mar

It is fig season in the Boland and I couldn’t feel more inspired! These must be some of the most beautiful fruit known to mankind – “dark with drama” on the outside, jammy soft and lusciously ruby on the inside. I grew up with the soft, light green variety of figs in our home garden. They were OK, but we never really loved them. Fast forward a few decades and I now know and adore quite a few varietals of figs, and I honestly love every single one.

My go-to way of enjoying figs will always be fresh, as part of a simple cheese board with preserves and fresh bread, or with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic in a caprese salad. But when it comes to baking, the possibilities are endless. I’ve posted my favourite fig frangipane tart some time ago – I make this tart every year during fig season a couple of times, it’s such an elegant dessert. But the other day I wanted to try something new, so I thought of my friend Anele Horn’s delicious raspberry blondies that she made at a dinner party a few months ago. She said the original recipe called for rhubarb and strawberries, so surely it should work with figs?

She sent me the link of the original recipe from Taste Australia, and I adapted it for the size of my small new cream enamelware tin (how beautiful?), reduced the sugar content (because my ripe figs were definitely sweeter than rhubarb) and simplified some of the steps. The results are absolutely dreamy: golden edges that are perfectly chewy and caramelized, the figs omitting a royal perfume and jammy texture, the centre gooey and fudgy with pockets of white chocolate chips. I’m going to be making these a few more times this season, that’s for sure!

PS: Thank you XTN Family Farm for the beautiful figs that I’ve had the privilege of experimenting with over the last week. If you are interested in buying +-750-800g boxes of fresh figs weekly from these Wellington-based orchards (seasonal; limited; Stellenbosch-based distribution), give me a shout and I’ll send you a price list: ilse@thefoodfox.com.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g butter, chopped
  • 240 g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) caster sugar
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract, or 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla essence
  • 2 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ,25 cups flour (310 ml/175 g) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • about 4 medium-large ripe figs, sliced into quarters or wedges

Method:

*Note: I used a 17 x 23 cm enamel baking tin, which is not a regular size. You will get the same results with a 20 x 20 cm square tin, or a 16 x 26 cm oven dish – anything slightly bigger will also do, but don’t go smaller.

Preheat the oven to 180 C with oven rack in center of oven. Line a suitable baking tin (at least 3,5 cm deep, see *note above) with non-stick paper. Place the butter and 2/3 (160 g) of the chopped chocolate in a microwavable medium size mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then continue to microwave for another 30 seconds and stir. Leave to heat through and melt completely for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Now add the sugar, vanilla and eggs to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well mixed with a spatula or wooden spoon (do not whisk). Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir it into the butter mixture until just combined. Finally, add the remaining 80 g chopped white chocolate and fold in until evenly distributed, then scrape the mixture into your prepared tin. Use a spatula to create a flat even layer that reaches all the corners, then top all over with fig quarters/wedges, pressing them into the mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and the centre has a golden colour all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. To slice, tug on the baking paper edges and remove the blondie slab from the tin onto a chopping board. Slice into squares, then remove the paper. Refrigerate in an air tight container, and enjoy straight from the fridge or at room temperature. (Should last in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.) Can also be served as dessert, at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream.

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My favourite milk tart

27 Feb

 

A mandala stencil will allow you to sift the most beautiful patterns on top of your milk tart. (Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe.)

 

Today is National Milk Tart Day! I didn’t even know a national day like this existed, until the team of KWV Roodeberg asked me to assist with creating a recipe to pair with their beautiful Roodeberg Rosé.

In the process, I proceeded to test all kinds of milk tarts: baked, unbaked, stove top filling, condensed milk filling, cookie crust, blind baked crust, store bought puff pastry crust – you name it! And the following recipe has won my vote: a blind baked buttery crust with a stove top cooked filling consisting of milk and cream, thickened with flour and corn starch, enriched with whole eggs, infused with lemon rind, almond essence and vanilla. While many people might think the list of ingredients look long, I can promise you that I’ve simplified the method and it is seriously easy (and forgiving) to make. I specifically wanted to side step the part where you needed to fold in whisked egg whites into an already cooked stove top custard mixture, before getting baked, meaning that it is actually cooked twice. Just too many steps and too many dirty bowls and pots!

This milk tart is softly set, which means that it slices best when served straight from the fridge. I love eating it cold or at room temperature. And the best part is that the crust doesn’t get soggy over time, it stays flaky and crunchy!

Using a stencil for sifting ground cinnamon just lifts this simple tart to the next level. I bought a bulk pack of 12 mandalas and now I can sift so many beautiful patterns on my tarts and cakes – it’s a game changer. The trick is to wait until the custard is set before placing the stencil on top, and to keep the stencil really close to the surface (ask a friend to hold it in place) while you sift the cinnamon. This way you get really crisp lines that will stay that way.

The floral notes of the Roodeberg Rosé (rose petal, Turkish delight, raspberry) playfully picks up the aromatics of almond, vanilla and citrus in the milk tart filling. It’s an unusual and fun combination!

Quick note: to simplify this recipe even further, you can substitute the cream for more milk of the same quantity, and leave out the lemon rind and cinnamon stick infusion while heating the milk. Also, if you don’t like the taste of almond essence, just leave that out too. I personally adore all of these flavour elements, but they’re not essential!

These beautiful off-white bougain villa leaves reminded me of creamy milk tart. And just look at how translucent the KWV Roodeberg Rosé is! Pure magic! (Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe.)

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 medium size milk tart)

For the crust:

1,5 cups (220 g) cake flour
1/3 cup (45 g) powdered icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
125 g cold butter, cubed
1 XL egg yolk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) iced water

Spray a 22-23cm round tart tin/dish with non-stick spray and set aside. Place the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the yolk and cold water and continue to process on low speed until it just starts to come together in clumps. Turn out into the tin and press evenly into a thin layer all over the bottom and up the sides (you might not need all of the pastry). Trim the edges, prick all over with a fork and place in the freezer. Now turn on your oven to 190 C with rack in the center to preheat while the dough firms up. After 20 minutes, transfer the cold tin to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

2 cups (500 ml) full cream milk
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
2 strips lemon rind, thinly peeled (optional)
1 stick cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream (or substitute with more milk)
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
2 XL eggs
3 tablespoons (45 ml) corn flour / Maizena
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond essence
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for dusting

Place the milk, butter, lemon rind and cinnamon stick in a pot on the stove top over medium heat. When the milk mixture just starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat and leave to steep while you get the egg mixture ready. Place the cream, sugar, eggs, corn flour, cake flour, vanilla and almond essence in a mixing bowl and mix well with electric beaters.  Remove the rind and cinnamon stick from the warm milk, then pour the cream and egg mixture into the warm infused milk, stirring continuously. Place the pot back over medium heat and stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (2-3 minutes). Turn down the heat to very low and continue to stir until the mixture is very smooth, thick and glossy (1-2 minutes) – taking care not to let the bottom burn. Remove from the heat and pour into the baked pastry case. Smooth the top and leave to cool to room temperature. To use the stencil: place it gently on top of the cooled tart, then sift cinnamon all over to reveal the pattern. Lift the stencil and serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

Tip: If your custard mixture seems to have thickened with some clots, use electric beaters to make it silky smooth before you pour it into the prepared base. It’s quite forgiving!

(This recipe was proudly and exclusively created for KWV Roodeberg Rosé for Milk Tart Day 2022.)

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Lemon semolina syrup cake

25 Aug

This easy, scrumptious, moist, bright yellow cake is the fourth and final recipe in the series #WhenLifeGivesYouLemons with LemonGold. It is made with four whole boiled LemonGolds (they’re seedless, so no need to remove seeds) and gets drenched in a lemony, almondy syrup as soon as it comes from the oven. The bright yellow colour doesn’t only come from the yellow fruit pulp (skins and all), but also from the use of extra virgin olive oil, locally sourced free range eggs and pale yellow semolina, resulting in a truly golden colour. Fine semolina lends a tender soft crumb, light as air.

The cake can be stored on the counter, covered, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 1 week. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or at room temperature with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients: (serves at least 8)

  • 4 LemonGolds
  • water, for boiling
  • 180 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 140 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL free range eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) fine semolina
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish with non-stick spray (mine is 24 x 30 cm).

Cover the lemons with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cover with a lid, then cook until soft (about 30 min). Remove with tongs and cool slightly, then remove the hard woody end stubs and cut into quarters. Blitz until smooth in a food processor. Now add the olive oil, sugar, salt and eggs. Process until well mixed, scraping the sides. Add the semolina and baking powder and pulse to mix.

Scrape the mixture out into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface, edging the mixture evenly into all the corners. Bake for 30 minutes (while you make the syrup) – the centre should be cooked and the surface golden. Remove from the oven and cut into diamonds, then ladle the syrup all over.

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of a LemonGold
  • 5 ml almond essence

Boil all the syrup ingredients for 1 minute, then set aside to cool. 

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or at room temperature with a strong coffee.

 

 

 

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Cherry and almond ice cream (and a visit to the Cherry Time Farm)

30 Nov

Decadent, creamy cherry ice cream, with a hint of almond.

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of joining a small group of guests at the Cherrytime Farm (part of Dutoit Agri) outside Worcester, for picking our own cherries from their cherry trees. I’ve never even seen a cherry tree before, so the prospect of picking plush ripe cherries sounded incredible.

After being welcomed, we roamed the vast orchards in the trickling rain and picked a few bags of the most beautiful fruit you can imagine. Most of my images look enhanced, but the cherries really are that vibrant in real life – you have to see it for yourself to believe it. We even enjoyed a delicious picnic-style lunch in the middle of the orchards – what a memorable day!

Fresh cherries on one of the cherry trees at Dutoit Agri’s cherry farm.
A picture perfect setting for a picnic!

Guests enjoying fresh cherries and snacking on picnic platters.

You can also order these boxes of cherries online.

A peek into our picnic-style lunch. Delicious!

Some of my picked cherries, at home.

Back home, I was so excited about our freshly picked harvest that I didn’t dare to cook them for days – we only enjoyed them daily as it, fresh and juicy and incredibly delicious. My daugher packed a few for her school lunch box daily. Then I used some to cook a fabulous cherry galette for my new seasonal cookbook (part of the Spring chapter, because cherries have a short season of November and December only – look out for the book in stores in September 2021) and a few days later I took on the project of making a proper cherry & almond ice cream from scratch. It was a complete triumph! And with the last few cherries, I made four small jars of cherry conserve that I’ll sparingly use over the festive season.

Note: My recipe for cherry and almond ice cream is not a quick one, it is traditionally custard based and you’ll need an ice cream machine to churn it. I realize that many people don’t have ice cream machines, but perhaps you can subtitute this traditional ice cream recipe for something a little simpler like this no-churn cheat’s ice cream (just omit the coffee & brandy) which is made from whipping condensed milk and double-cream. Continue with swirling in the cooked cherries as per the recipe below, and freeze immediately.

Order your fresh cherries today from Cherry Time online. Having a box of plump, juicy cherries in my fridge has brought us so much joy, I cannot even describe it. Some of the most beautiful and delicious fruit in the world!

My cherry & almond ice cream, ready to serve.

A few scoops of cherry ice cream with fresh cherries – happiness in a bowl!

Ingredients: (makes about 1,2 liters)

For the chunky berry swirl: (prep time – about 20 minutes, plus time for stoning and cooling)

  • 500 g fresh cherries, pitted, halved
  • 70 g white sugar

Add the stoned cherries and sugar to a small saucepan, then place over medium heat. When the fruit starts to release their juice, stir every now and then until the sugar has melted completely – it will take a few minutes. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until the fruit is soft but still chunky. Remove from the heat to cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to use.

For the ice cream base: (prep time – 25 min plus 1 hour cooling plus at least 3 hours in the freezer)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2,5 ml almond extract (optional, but I love the combination of almond with cherries!)
  • 350 ml milk
  • 350 ml fresh cream
  • a handful flaked almonds, toasted (for serving, optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the salt, vanilla and almond extract until light in colour. Add the milk and cream to a medium pot and heat until you can just still dip your finger into it. Remove it from the heat and add it in a slow stream to the whisked egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to a very runny custard (it must coat the back of a spoon), but it must not boil. Pour the custard into a plastic container and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before churning.

Using an ice-cream machine, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturers instructions (mine takes about 45 minutes). When it is ready, pour the chilled chunky berry sauce into the ice cream, giving it a quick few folds with a spoon, then scoop it into a container suitable for freezing. Cover and freeze immediately for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

To enjoy, remove the ice cream from the freezer and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before scooping (depending on the temperature outside, but I like mine a little soft). Enjoy as is, or top with toasted almond flakes for a great extra crunch and some toasty almond notes.

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Salty peanut butter & milk chocolate bars

28 Oct

It’s only in recent years that I discovered a much loved American classic – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you’ve tasted it, you’d know that it is completely addictive, with a layer of smooth set peanut butter filling encased in milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of delicate salty, nutty and creamy, especially for peanut butter lovers, of course. I do love peanut butter, although I’m not that huge on sandwiches – I’d rather just eat it straight from the jar. But if you want your peanut butter fix in a treat form, this is it.

A few years ago, I joined a book club for the first time. It was a small group of friends that all had the same goal in mind – more quality time with like-minded friends. One of the first books we read was Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, a great read for anyone with a palate for a great story (multiple storylines at the same time) and American food culture. In the book, “Pat Prager” makes these award winning peanut butter squares that end up (spoiler alert) on a world class menu. Well, I tried making my own version of those exact squares, and they are magnificent. The thing is, I knew that the American palate is slightly different to the South African palate, so I adapted it to include less butter, less sugar and more salt. “Pat” specifically used milk chocolate, although I would have chosen dark, and I have to say it works perfectly in this setup.

So here is my version of Reese’s peanut butter cups / Pat Prager’s peanut butter squares, sliced in a bar format (disclaimer: it’s rich, so we did slice a few into squares afterwards for the folks that can’t stand the magnificent overload). It’s an easy no-bake recipe that only requires a food processor. Fabulous treats in a few minutes! Keep these in the fridge, because they set beautifully when colder and melt in your mouth very quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 1 x 200 g packet digestive biscuits
  • 80 g butter, melted
  • 1 cup (250 ml) smooth unflavoured peanut butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (310 ml) powdered icing sugar (loosely packed)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 150 g milk chocolate

Method:

In the bowl of a food processor, add the biscuits and process to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, icing sugar and salt, and process until well mixed. Turn the mixture out into a medium size square (or rectangular) tin lined with baking paper – mine was 20 x 20 cm, but I’ve also used a 30 x 20 cm for a shallower end result. Use a spatula to distribute it evenly and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In the meantime, break the chocolate into blocks and place in a microwavable jug/bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir gently, then repeat until the chocolate is almost melted. Let it stand to warm through and stir until completely melted and smooth. When the peanut butter filling is cold, pour the warm melted chocolate over the top and smooth it all over with a spatula, working quickly before it sets. Regrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then cut into bars or squares before the chocolate hardens too far. Store in a container with lid in the refrigerator.

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Sticky toffee pudding with figs and walnuts

29 Aug

Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage roasting dish and 400 ml mug in “Fig” – their brand new colour. This sticky toffee pudding is made with rehydrated dried figs and walnuts – absolutely delicious.

A week ago, Le Creuset SA launched their brand new colour, Fig: a warmer shade of violet with beautiful brownish hues – you can see the colour best (in its full glory) in the signature cast iron pots with lids. They sent me a stunning package with a selection of fig-coloured Le Creuset products (rectangular 30 cm heritage roaster, 400 ml coffee mug, medium spatula etc.) as well as a recipe card and ingredients for a decadent sticky baked pudding with dried figs and toasted walnuts.

I gave their recipe a whirl using my new Fig cookware and what a stunning pudding! Even though fresh figs are not in season, dried figs are easily rehydrated in boiling water before baking and they work incredibly well here. The walnuts also provide a welcome soft crunch and some deeper toasty notes. It’s a large pudding that will feed a crowd of up to 12 people (I suppose you can easily half it, using a smaller baking dish). Warm and comforting, soft and spongey, sticky and saucy – the stuff winter pudding dreams are made of.

I’ve added a few touches of my own with the addition of salt in the pudding battter and in the sauce, a few less walnuts for the final topping and some other suggestions. You can definitely also substitute the dried figs for dried dates – they will work just as well.

Ingredients: (makes one large pudding that will serve up to 12 people)

Note: Slightly adapted from Le Creuset’s fabulous recipe for “Sticky Fig & Walnut Pudding”.

For the pudding batter:

  • 200 g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 400 ml recently boiled water
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 200 g light brown sugar
  • 4 x free range eggs (or just use large)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 350 g self-raising flour
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish (I’ve used Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage dish) with non-stick spray. Place the chopped figs in a bowl with the bicarb of soda and top with the recently boiled water. Stir and set aside to steep.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix – the mixture will look slightly curdled, don’t be alarmed. Add the flour and mix well, then add the walnuts, steeped figs, and all the liquids of the steeped figs. Mix to a runny batter, scraping the sides. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180 C or until fully cooked and golden brown. While the pudding is baking, make the sauce (you’ll pour it over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven).

For the sauce:

  • 350 g light brown sugar (or use demerara for a darker result)
  • 150 g butter
  • 400 ml fresh or longlife cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • about 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, for topping (optional)

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved (watch it carefully as it can easily start boiling and will boil over the sides). Remove from the heat. Pour half the sauce over the freshly baked pudding as soon as it comes from the oven, then serve the remaining sauce on the side. Serve the pudding warm, optionally also with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

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Baked chocolate port pudding (self-saucing)

17 Jun

A warm, comforting, unpretentious chocolate pudding with a rich chocolate port self-saucing bottom. I served it here with macerated mulberries and a glass of De Krans Cape Ruby on the side.

 

Winter has arrived in full swing and with it comes the urge to cozy up and indulge in a few comforts. Two of my favourite winter comforts in the Boland are steamy baked puddings and fortified wines. But if I can combine the two, I’m in heaven.

I’ve seen quite a few recipes for baked puddings with Cape Tawny, but I haven’t yet come across a baked pudding featuring Cape Ruby. De Krans makes one of the best Cape Ruby‘s out there – an award winning wine that doesn’t come with a debilitating price tag. At R85 a bottle it’s affordable, and once opened it can last on the shelf for a few months. I’ve created a self-saucing chocolate pudding featuring De Krans’s Cape Ruby in the sauce. The result is a dark, sultry chocolate pudding with the underlying flavour nuances of fortified red fruit – amplified with the addition of a glass of Cape Ruby on the side.

It’s easy to make and you can optionally serve it with vanilla ice cream and/or some poached red fruit like mulberries, black figs, cherries or plums (canned fruit is also fine) – even quince or pears will work.

This is a wonderful pudding to make for this weekend’s upcoming Father’s Day celebrations. Remember to rather underbake this pudding (like a fondant) than overbake it – otherwise the saucy business at the bottom will disappear. For extra sauce lovers, I’ve included a simple chocolate sauce recipe at the bottom that you can use to elevate the sauce levels upon serving.

Hope you’re staying safe and warm this winter.

Note: While most self-saucing chocolate pudding recipes serve 6, I’m always looking for leftovers. That’s why this is a bigger pudding – not necessarily to serve more people, but to have more servings for the few who are already enjoying it.

A glass of De Krans Cape Ruby is the perfect pairing for this pudding.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

For the batter:

  • 1,5 cups (185 g) cake flour
  • 1,5 (7,5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) cocoa powder
  • 90 g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 1 XL egg

For the topping:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) De Krans Cape Ruby
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) cocoa powder (plus more for dusting, optionally)
  • 1/3 cup (70 g) caster sugar

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160 C and grease a large deep baking dish (about 2 liter capacity) with non-stick spray.

Make the batter: In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder together. In a second bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk, vanilla and egg together, then add it to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Pour into the prepared dish and smooth the top.

In a small pot over stovetop, heat the Cape Ruby and water to boiling point. While it is heating, mix the cocoa powder and caster sugar together and spoon all over the top of the batter. When the Cape Ruby and water mixture reaches boiling point, pour it all over the cocoa sugar topped batter. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is solid and the inside is a little still soft.

Serve warm, dusted with a little cocoa powder, with (optionally) poached/macerated fruit and vanilla ice cream.

For an even saucier option, make a simple chocolate sauce on the side:

  • 60 g/ml butter
  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 (180 ml) cup water
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir until well mixed. Add the water and stir well, then bring to a simmer. Stir often and simmer for 2 minutes, taking care not to let it boil over the sides. Remove from the heat, then add the vanilla and salt and stir to mix. Serve warm over ice cream and puddings. Will keep regfrigerated for at least a week.

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Best cocoa brownies from Food52 Genius Desserts

30 Sep

 

Last year December, I bought Food52‘s incredible book, Genius Desserts. To say that this book is an inspiration, is an understatement. It is one of the best baking books out there for people with a serious sweet tooth that want to explore decadent, professionally tested, winning recipes. It also specifically resonates with me, because it is written in a language that speaks to my word-obsessed, food-adoring, recipe-focused brain.

As I’ve declared before: I. LOVE. BROWNIES. I dream about them. I search for them. I inhale them. I have long conversations about them. I sometimes bake them, but I more often test other people’s offerings. I’ve eaten some incredible versions in my life, but I don’t have a go-to version recently, to be honest. This post will rectify that, I assure you. So let’s start with the facts: brownies should be decadently chocolatey, fudgy and squidgy, not overly dominated by nuts, but with the addition of a soft walnut/pecan crunch here and there for texture. It should be cakey only in the way that it’s not completely dense like a no-bake chocolate fudge square. But dense enough to be considered almost underbaked, like a flourless chocolate cake, but less fragile. There’s that fine line between a great brownie and a perfect brownie, and I think I’ve just found the recipe (written by Alice Medrich) that allows you to create simple perfection. As the book states: “Alice knows chocolate. It speaks to her. We’re lucky to have her as a translator.”

 

The incredible thing is this: the best brownies are usually made with good quality (expensive) chocolate, but this recipe only uses cocoa powder and a few other simple ingredients – butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, salt, walnuts. The magic is in the way it is mixed and heated, starting over a water bath and later vigorously beaten for an exact “40 strokes”, leaving you slightly breathless yet exhilarated with your bowl of rich, thick, oozing, dark treasure. It is baked for a mere 25 minutes at 165 C, resulting in something that you might consider under-baked at first. But when it sets to room temperature, it is just perfect: intensely chocolatey, so moist that it will actually be spreadable if you try, but holds together just barely enough to be cut and held. Lastly, the added salt flakes provide lyrical depth.

Here it is – apart from the slightly finicky water bath, the rest is straight forward wooden spoon stirring. If you’re prepared to follow the recipe to a T, you will be richly (ahem) rewarded . For brownie connoisseurs, this recipe is an incredible find, and a must-try.

 

Ingredients: makes 24 square brownies (recipe slightly adapted* from Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies via Food 52 Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore)

*Notes: I don’t own a square 20 x 20 cm pan, so I made a batch that’s 1,5 times the original to fit a more commonly found baking tin size in South Africa, namely 20 x 30 cm. I also used salted butter instead of unsalted, upped the added salt and vanilla ratios slightly and used XL eggs instead of large. I chose to bake with Gideon Milling’s stone ground cake wheat flour, which is in my experience the best substitute for American recipes calling for all purpose flour.

  • 230 g salted butter
  • 375 g sugar
  • 125 g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ml vanilla extract
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 100 g cake flour (see notes above)
  • about 100 g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • salt flakes, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 165 C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20 x 30 cm rectangular baking pan/tin with non-stick baking paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (the bowl can touch the water directly, in this case, but should “sit” on the edges of the pot and not on the bottom). Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. (It might look gritty here but don’t worry, it will smooth out later.) Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts. Spread evenly in the lined pan, edging it into the corners.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Let cool completely on a rack in the tin.
  5. Lift up the ends of the lined paper, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares. If your room temperature is very warm, refrigerate the brownies before cutting for a more neat, even edge. Serve at room temperature, optionally sprinkled with salt flakes just before serving (can be stored in a covered container for a few days, without the salt flakes as they will draw water and “melt” into the brownies).
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Cape Mediterranean: the way we love to eat – IN STORES NOW

10 Jul

It is with the greatest pleasure that I share the arrival of my first cookbook with you! It is titled Cape Mediterranean: the way we love to eat, published by Penguin Random House / Struik Lifestyle, with photography by my dear friend Tasha Seccombe. The book is available from this week in most South African book stores as well as online (Loot.co.za, Bidorbuy.co.za, Amazon.com, ExclusiveBooks.co.za etc.) and as an e-book at a recommended retail price of R360.

Writing a cookbook (hopefully one of many to come) has been one of my biggest aspirations for many years. In June 2018 I finally approached the legendary Linda de Villiers from PRH with my concept. Apart from agreeing to publish my book, she and her team have made this process the smoothest and most pleasant that I could have ever wished for and I am so grateful for their belief in my concept. It was a privilege to produce this book with my incredibly talented friend Tasha Seccombe who photographed & styled while I cooked and co-styled – I couldn’t have done it without her. With ceramics, fabrics, background textures and props provided by our friends from Hertex, Hertex HAUS, Mervyn Gers & Southern Art Ceramics, this book has a very unique local look and feel.

A Cape Mediterranean spread, featuring green-on-green salad, loaded hummus, fennel & apple salad, pork & port terrine, trout fillets and panzanella. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. From my book, Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat.

 

So let’s talk about the book’s theme. Cape Mediterranean food/cooking is a contemporary South African hybrid cuisine strongly influenced by the broader Mediterranean basin (Southwestern Europe, Middle East and northern Africa, surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) that has developed naturally from within the Western Cape due to the inherent Mediterranean climate and the abundant occurrence of classic Mediterranean-style local produce. It is not defined by race or ethnicity. Although ‘Mediterranean cuisine’ is still a term that isn’t easily defined and varies across the wider basin, it is mostly accepted to be driven by olive oil, wheat, grapes (wine), fruit, vegetables and seafood, also including dairy and meat. The more well-known Cape Malay, Cape Dutch and indigenous African styles of cooking are well settled within South Africa.

With this book, I would like to add another Cape hybrid to our rainbow repertoire: contemporary Cape Mediterranean (Cape-Med) – a South African style of cooking and entertaining influenced by one of the oldest and arguably also the healthiest cuisines in the world.

What are the biggest differences between traditional ‘Mediterranean’ and ‘Cape Mediterranean’? In South Africa, we traditionally consume more meat than in the Mediterranean basin. Also, our exceptional local olive oil industry is still very young compared to the Mediterranean basin, which has an olive producing history dating back to 2600 BCE, according to some sources. Few of us know how to make fresh homemade pasta or gnocchi (we mostly prefer the quick and easy store-bought dried versions), although they are both very popular items on restaurant menus. However, our culture of alfresco dining because of good weather is shared, as is our love of good wine and an active outdoor lifestyle. This book focuses on contemporary South African gatherings, not heritage food nor nostalgia. You won’t find any twists on milk tart, chakalaka or bobotie. Cape Mediterranean cooking is a natural South African interpretation of classic Mediterranean-style cooking, celebrating our Western Cape-based Mediterranean climate, worldclass local produce and dedicated producers.

May this book bring many hours of joy and togetherness around your table! Please tag me with #CapeMed if you’re sharing your cooking experiences from this book on social media.

I’d like to share one of my favourite recipes from the book with you: a festive pavlova with lemon curd & passion fruit. Lemons are one of the cornerstone ingredients for Mediterranean & Cape Mediterranean cooking – they’re listed in more than 40% of the book’s recipes. This specific recipe was created in collaboration with Lemongold – the newly launched cousins of the much loved Clemengold premium citrus brand. These seedless, thin-skinned, extra juicy lemons are perfect for making lemon curd, for cooking, for squeezing, for juicing etc, without the hassle of removing seeds. Lemongolds are grown widely in SA and forms part of Woolworths’ “Farming for the Future” sustainability programme.

A classic pavlova topped with whipped cream, lemon curd and fresh passion fruit. Photography by Tasha Seccombe. From my book Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

6 XL egg whites (save the yolks and make *lemon curd)
400 g caster sugar (extra fine sugar)
10 ml (2 teaspoon) white vinegar or lemon juice
15 ml (1 tablespoon) corn flour
1 teaspoons vanilla extract (or scraped seeds of a vanilla pod)
250 ml fresh cream, whipped
about 1 cup *lemon curd, for topping (see page xxx)
pulp of about 4 fresh passion fruits

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 150 C. Whisk egg whites in a large bowl (with an electric whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Gradually add castor sugar to egg whites, small amounts at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Add the vinegar/lemon juice, cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.
Dot a big roasting tray with some of the mixture then place a sheet of baking paper on top (sticking like glue). Pour the pavlova mixture on the tray and shape with a spoon or spatula into a round shape with a diameter of about 23 cm, like a cake (draw a circle on the back of your baking paper, if necessary). The mixture will rise a bit to the sides, so leave enough space. Place in the oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 120 C. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave to cool (in the oven) for about 2,5 hours without opening the oven door.

To serve: Carefully remove the baking paper from the bottom of pavlova and transfer to a serving dish (it will have a few cracks, that’s 100%). Top with whipped cream and lemon curd, swirling the cream and curd together softly. Top with lashings of passion fruit pulp and serve at once, sliced.

Note: Pavlova must be assembled just before serving as it becomes soggy on standing. Store the unassembled baked pavlova on the baking tray covered with a sealed large plastic bag. Can be baked a day ahead if stored airtight.

For the lemon curd:

You only need three lemons to make 500 ml (2 cups) lemon curd. It’s a phenomenal spread for cakes, cookies and pavlova, and will last for at least a week in the refrigerator, once opened.  I usually make my lemon curd with four whole eggs, but when I’ve made a pavlova using six egg whites, I use the remaining six yolks instead of whole eggs. Use whatever you have on hand.

Ingredients: (makes 500 ml/2 cups)

peeled rind and juice of 3 medium-size lemons / Lemongolds
250 ml (1 cup) white sugar
180 g soft butter
4 XL eggs (or 6 XL egg yolks)
a pinch salt

Method:

Place the peeled rind and sugar in a food processor and process until you get a very fine, yellow, grainy mixture. Add the butter and process until light and creamy. Add the eggs and salt and mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir continuously while it heats up (take care, it burns easily). The mixture will at first become runnier as the butter starts to melt, and then it will thicken again as the eggs form a glossy custard. Never let it reach boiling point. If at any stage it looks like it’s burning, remove from the heat at once and strain to remove any brown bits. Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass jar with a lid. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use – the mixture will continue to thicken on cooling. (Note: For an ultra-silky result, strain the hot mixture before cooling.) Best served at room temperature – spread it on cakes or cookies, or serve with meringues (Eaton mess-style) and on pavlova.

Note: In this photograph, I used freshly made lemon curd that has not cooled fully – that’s why it has a more runny consistency. Your lemon curd will be thick and spreadable once refrigerated.

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