My chocolate and Pastry Experiences

Scottish part time chocolatier in London enjoying all things Chocolate and Pastry


Leave a comment

The Best Brownies Ever?? Absolutely!

IMG_20151110_072143[1]

So I’m not a huge brownie fan. I will occassionally have a Boston Brownie from Konditor & Cook as they are next to my workplace, but generally I would chose another treat over the brownie.

I then saw on my Emerald Street email that Hummingbird Bakery were having a Brownie Bake Off. By jove another competition to enter!

Now in my research I discovered that a brownie is not just simply a mix of flour, eggs, sugar and chocolate……oh no, it is much more complex than that! Brownies now-a-days fall into 3 categories: Cakey, Fudgey and Chewy and all of these are made with the various combinations of core ingredients. Increase the chocolate and decrease the flour and you’ve got a fudgey brownie, decrease the chocolate and increase the flour and you’ve got a cakey brownie. Use different types of brown sugar and you’ve got a chew brownie. I had no idea!

So I made 2 brownies, one that turned out quite cakey (see picture on the right below) and one that was proper fudgey (see header picture and left picture below) – fudgey wins hands down. I have also discovered that it’s much better to make brownies in a 8″x8″ inch pan rather than the individual

Screenshot_2015-11-09-21-51-11-1[1] Fudgey BrowniesIMG_20151108_131217[1]Individual Cakey Brownies

I made a Raspberry, Chambord & Almond Brownie, and highly recommend anyone to try it. Please tweet or instagram me the pictures 🙂 if you do make them

RecipeIMG_20151108_113651[1]

Ingredients
170g Chocolate (I used a 54% which quite a neutral flavour)
3 eggs
300g Caster sugar
70g + 2tbsp Plain flour
30g Cocoa powder
175g Fresh raspberries (washed & dried)
113g Unsalted butter
100g Almonds chopped
2 tbsp Chambord

Optional
1.5 handfuls Freese dried rapsberries

Method

Melt chocolate and butter in a bowel over boiling water, be careful not to get any waster into the chocolate.
Remove from heat and whisk in sugar in 4 stages to allow sugar to melt, keep stiring until it no longer feels gritty. The sugar also allows the chocolate to cool before the eggs are added.
Whisk in eggs 1 at a time
Fold in cocoa powder
Fold in flour in 4 stages, ensuring that there are no ribbons of flour. This could go into a lined pan at this stage for a plain brownie.
Mix through fresh berries and chopped almonds, try to squash down a little so that the little raspberry kernels are broken up.
Add chambord 1/2 tbps at a time and adjust to personal taste.
Mix through1.5 handfuls of freeze dried raspberry crumb.

Place in a double lined 8″ x 8″ tin and bake for 35 – 40 mins at 170°c

Now the important part, and the hardest….leave to cool competely before cutting. I found it easier to heat the knife in boiling water, then dry and cut….after each cut put the knife back in the water to heat up.

If you do make these, let me know how you get on.

Screenshot_2015-11-09-21-51-11-1[1]

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Banana & Chocolate Mini Loaves

Slice

Every week I start with the same thought, I’m going to buy more fruit and eat some every day…then I read an article about how the Banana is the king fruit amongst fruits health wise so I bought a large bunch.  Needless to say by the time the weekend came, I’d half the bunch that had over ripened.

I decided that, rather than throw them out I’d make my version of Banana loaf and throw in some 64% dark chocolate chips, the chocolate works well with the sweetness of the ripe banana. I think that using a milk or white chocolate would make this too sweet… this recipe is a great on the do with children as it’s not too messy but there are lots for them to get involved with.

Banana & Chocolate Mini LoavesIngredients

Ingredients
250g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking powder
125g unsalted butter
250g Caster sugar
4 Ripe Bananas mashed up
2 Eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
175g Chocolate Chips

 

Set for the ovenLooking good!Method
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Cream the softened butter and sugar in a separate bowl and add the vanilla, eggs, chocolate chips and mashed up bananas
Gently fold in the sifted flour in 3 stages
Transfer to half lined loaf tins and bake at 180°c for 25-30 mins depending on your oven

 

 

 

I had friends visiting yesterday so it was nice to share something home-made to give them, although when your kitchen is 28°c I do not recommend putting your oven on!

Time to eat


Leave a comment

New Chocolate Flavours

IMAG1577so I decided to try some new flavours, one based on Pierre Hermes Ispahan Macaronwhich is a Lychee and Rose Ganache Centre and was decorated like Frank Haasnoot’s World Chocolate Masters moulded chocolate recipe, black chocolate Cherry made with Cacao Barry Alunga Milk Chocolate (41%), a blueberry ganache with Valrhona Manjari (64%) and finally a coffee bean (it’s up there with the Lychee in terms of impressing flavours) made with Valrhona Manjari (64%)

3 chocs

So I made little stencils out of white fondant and then airbrushed white cocoa  butter into the mould. I was a little heavy handed with the airbrush. They may not have looked like they should have or how I wanted them to look but the flavour was stunning. I’ve decided that I don’t like the daisy flower so I’ll look for another flower.

RedBlueberryFor the Cherry design, I flicked red cocoa butter into a small round cylinder mould, most of it flicked back onto my dress… I think that the effect was ok though.

I then tried flicking white and blue cocoa butter rather than a solid blue for the blueberry ganache, which I will try next time.

Coffee Bean

The coffee bean was the simplest of them all, sometimes that’s all it takes, just it’s own flavour to speak for itself.  I had an Aztec mould that I hadn’t found a flavour for so it just seemed perfect for this.  I roasted whole and slightly crushed beans in a dry pan and then infused cream with the heated beans to maximise flavours.

I never thought that I could make chocolate taste like a coffee bean rather than a cup of coffee but I did it, and I was super please with the results.

 

I also made honeycomb in a 27°c kitchen and dipped in the Cacao Barry Extra Bitter 64%, for the first time ever I had fat bloom on the chocolate….I should’ve taken a picture, to be honest I was so mortified that I’d gotten it so wrong.  I think it was me opening the fridge door all the time and changing the temperature of the fridge. I’ve learned quite a few lessons from these chocolates:

1. don’t wear white dress when playing with chocolate and coloured cocoa butter

2. don’t be so heavy handed with the airbrush, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you keep spraying until you can!

3. try not to temper chocolate in hot kitchen, if it’s got to be done, don’t disturb the fridge when the chocolates are in it

4. honeycomb melts in heat

Recipes to follow 🙂


2 Comments

Playing with Cocoa Butter and Airbrushing

CompressorSo I’ve been using an airbrush during my Stage in Yauatcha which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve now bought my own, and I know I’m going to have lots of fun 🙂

 

metled butter
1st colourAfter polishing all the moulds to remove any residual oil or chocolate from the last time they were used and once the coloured cocoa butter was melted, strained and shiny powder added it was time to give the moulds their first layer of colour…I kept turning the airbrush rather than the mould to begin with so the cocoa butter would drip out of the gravity tank on top.

2nd reversedBy the time I did the 2nd layer I had gotten into the technique of turning the mould rather than the gun.

 

 

 

IMAG1429IMAG1428Once the mould had been sprayed it was time to rub off the excess colour so that when they were capped, there was no coloured cocoa butter going into the tank of chocolate.

I love the results of airbrushing cocoa butter, I can feel lots of chocolate days ahead 🙂

 

IMAG1431

For a different effect I flicked cocoa butter into the moulds
IMAG1424IMAG1416IMAG1426IMAG1425


Leave a comment

Hix Dessert Launch and Reflections

We all met in the Godiva Concession where we were delighted with Champagne Truffles and Creme Brulee TrufflesIMAG1378.

Following some chocolate we all went up to Hix and toasted the night with the fantastic Choctini,I81A9313 I really should’ve found out how to make it as it was simply divine and I could see myself making this at home.

I was joined by a few of my friends I81A9326to help celebrate the launch of my dessert onto the menu of Hix after winning the Godiva Chocolate Challenge 2014.

The Hix staff brought out lots of plates of the new dessert and I felt a little under the microscope, everyone was watching to see my reaction.  I was really pleased that Chef Martin hadn’t changed anything, and I was please with itIMAG1383 how it looked and tasted.  It was good to try the dessert after being made by the professionals. In fact I’m back again tonight to try the dessert with some other friends who weren’t there last night.

It was a shame that Mark Hix wasn’t there as I was looking forward to chatting with him again, but I did meet Ronnie Murray who is the Hix Group Head Chef and had I good chat with him who’s background is pastry.

This whole experience has been amazing. From seeing the competition details in the Stylist Magazine email Emerald Street, to researching seasonal ingredients that I could use,I81A8896 and could be used in Hix if I won (got to think positive), all the practicing that my friends got to try and comment on, the phone call from Victoria at Godiva to say that I was in the final – I was so giggly that I’m sure she thought I was a looper, the panic for that week; mentally going through every stage and writing down all the tools and ingredients so that I had everything that I needed, competing in the final and meeting the other contestants, meeting William Sitwell, Mark Hix, Juliet Northumb and Thierry Muret – I have so much more respect for the contestants on Masterchef now…my amazing trip to Brussels traveling on Euro-Star, the day in the kitchen of Hix, the launch and seeing my dessert on the menu IMAG1389…I still have a visit to the Innovation center in Brussels with Thierry to look forward to.

My chocolate adventures will continue…Click for the launch pics
Pictures courtesy of John Gough

 


Leave a comment

A Day at Hix

index I’m sitting on the usual train that I catch to go into the City every week day morning, but this is different, today I’m off to a professional kitchen for a day. HIX! I have been looking forward to this day since I won the Godiva Chocolate Challenge in March. Having designed a dessert that I thought matched the Hix ethos and celebrated all that is chocolate, I was on the penultimate part of my winning journey. (video of the day).

I81A8914I arrive at Hix Selfridges for the shop opening, there’s something lovely about walking around Selfridges when there are no customers in the store yet. I am greeted by Head Chef Martin Sweeney and given my whites to change into. It turns out Martin is also Scottish which makes me feels a little more at ease.

It suddenly dawns on me…I haven’t made this dessert since the start of March. I should know it inside out, the week of the Godiva competition I went to sleep going through all the stages of the dessert in my head making each stage virtually, but that was nearly 2 months ago. I start to panic “I can’t do this, I’m not prepared, I’m not a chef!” I think. Martin has a brilliant sense of timing and comes over with a coffee for me. “so, talk me through this then” he says. As I talk I remember. Chef smiles at me “well get to it then” he says and leaves me in the Pastry section with Pastry Chef Melissa.

There’s something about being in a Pastry section of a professional kitchen that makes you feel more organised. At least I like to think that’s what it was, it’s more likely to be because the chefs had already weighed out all my ingredients into nice neatly labelled containers. I start to make the Chocolate and Honey Cremeux and I feel like a chef, for today anyway I belong. With the dessert well under way I start to relax….

I81A9020My next panic is doing the quinelles. I learned to do this by watching youtube videos in slow motion. I kept a tub of whipped cream in my fridge to practice – every time I made a cup of coffee I’d pour hot water into a cup and heat my spoon and make a few quinelles then put them back in the cream, smooth it over till the next time.

 

I81A8943During every stage Chef Martin and Chef Melissa came over to see what I was doing, how I was doing it and offer tips on how I could do it better.

 

I81A9000Finally I was ready to start to plate up; my pears were nicely poached and caramelised in honey, my almonds toasted in honey and finished off with a touch of crushed fleur de sel, chocolate and honey cremeux had set up nicely, chocolate crumb had cooled and looked like chocolate crumble topping and the sorbet was perfect.

I81A9034After managing to plate up with no errors, it was all down to Chef trying and providing feedback. Chef Martin was very kind to me and had only positive comments…..then all the Hix Chefs came to try and loved it.

Once the dessert was finished I had lunch with the Godiva PR company and John the photographer. Fresh salmon that is cured and smoked on the premises with homemade soda bread, I learned that it’s taken Mark Hix 4 years to perfect the curing and smoking process to what’s used today and it’s been 4 years well spent as the salmon was amazing. There is something special about new season asparagus which I had with hollandaise sauce. I learned so much during that day, and it is certainly one I will not forget.

I81A9042Here’s a link to see all the pictures of my day, courtesy of John Gough