Happy Birthday – Hazelnut dream cake

By the time you’re reading this my Birthday will be gone and the cake in the pictures will only be a memory. Most likely I’ll have had a nice day with many nice memories and ready for another year of my life. I’ll be 24. I don’t care so much about age anymore, once you’ve passed 20 it’s just another number and once other people pass 20 they don’t really change much with one year, three years, ten years… You’re like a stone and one year is like 100 water drops on your surface; they don’t do much difference but in a few years there might be a small, noticeable difference anyway. Ever drop is an experience of your previous year, a meeting with a new person, a journey somewhere new, a new hobby, a new skill you learnt or just an important train of thought like an insight or a decision made. Small drops, just little things that slowly turns you into who you are and one day in one, three or ten years you’ll wake up and realize that these Birthdays, these drops of rain and these small things after all managed to change you even though you feel like things and people will always be the same.

Ah.

I tried some of the banana mousse I made last week with some leftover brownie pieces. I had planned my Birthday cake to be a thin brownie topped with a praliné layer, bananas, chocolate mousse and with banana mousse around and on top of everything but it didn’t work; the brownie took over too much. After much thought and sleepless nights I decided to make a hazelnut sponge topped with a thick layer of caramelized hazelnut spread, grilled bananas, a layer of hazelnut dacquoise and chocolate mousse around and over everything and some caramelized hazelnuts for decoration. I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the bananas but one day when I had a grilled banana with yoghurt I took a piece of the banana and tried it with a Nutella type spread. There is one thing you have to understand about grilled bananas; if you grill or bake bananas the banana flavour becomes a lot stronger and suddenly it tastes like caramel. The banana slices leak syrup and turns everything it comes in touch with into a luxurious, syrupy, caramel-y dessert. Together with hazelnuts and chocolate you get something that feels like velvet on your tongue. Comforting, soft, caramel bananas complimented with the earthy flavour of the hazelnuts and finally the rich, luxurious taste of chocolate. I was planning on incorporating a layer of toffee-fudge sauce in the cake but by grilling the bananas I eliminated that need.

And let’s talk about textures. You’ve most likely heard that in terms of flavour a perfect dish needs to be balanced. White chocolate with a caramel filling topped with meringue? No, too sickly. Salted caramel on top of buttered toast? Probably too salty. The same goes for textures and consistencies, something I had in mind when thinking up my Birthday cake. Chewy meringue, crunchy praliné, soft bananas, more softness in the shape of a hazelnut sponge, velvety and airy mousse and finally more crunch in the shape of caramelized hazelnuts.

This cake is perfection. It’s pure decadence and love and joy and luxury and velvet in the form of a cake.

(Of course, before I forget it, I better mention that the chocolate mousse recipe is from good old Joe Pastry. The hazelnut sponge recipe is from The Baking Life and I made half the original batch size)

Also, you’ll get one leftover meringue disc and one leftover sponge.

Hazelnut dream cake

Hazelnut dacquoise

70 g/2.5 oz toasted, peeled and ground up hazelnuts
18 g/0.6 oz coarsely chopped toasted and peeled hazelnuts
2 egg whites
90 g/3.2 oz sugar

Put the oven on 175 degrees C/347 degrees F (150 degrees C/302 degrees F if using a convection oven). Draw two circles just under 5 inches/12.7 cm on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Whip the egg whites into a stiff foam, you should be able to hold the bowl up side down without anything falling out. Whisk in the sugar and whisk until it’s dissolved. Fold in the nuts and pipe the batter in the circles and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Hazelnut sponge

75 g/2.7 oz toasted and peeled hazelnuts
70 g/2.5 oz flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
68 g/2.4 oz sugar
22 g/0.8 oz vegetable oil

Put the oven on 175 degrees C/347 degrees F (150 degrees C/302 degrees F if using a convection oven). Butter and flour two 5 inch/12.7 cm tins. Blend flour, nuts and salt until it’s like a flour. Whisk the eggs and the sugar until it’s tripled in size. Fold in the nut mixture in two additions. Transfer a large blob of batter to a bowl and whisk in the oil. Foil this back into the other batter. Pour the batter into the two tins and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Caramelized hazelnuts for the praliné layer and decoration

100 g/3.5 oz toasted and peeled hazelnuts
200 g/7 oz sugar
5 g/0.2 oz butter
4 tablespoons water

Put the sugar and the water in a saucepan and heat it to the soft ball stage (118 degrees C/244 degrees F). Put the hazelnuts in the saucepan and keep stirring. The sugar will crystallize and then melt again. When the sugar is completely melted and browned nicely you stir in the butter. Pour the praliné on a greaseproof paper and separate the nuts as well as you can.

Praliné layer

Most of the caramelized hazelnuts, leave however many you want for decoration
About 40 g/1.4 oz butter
Big pinch of sea salt flakes, or to taste

Put the caramelized hazelnuts in a blender and blend until it’s the consistency you want. I recommend that you blend it so that it just started to form a paste but it’s still very thick so that when you’ve mixed in the butter and it’s been in the cake in the fridge overnight and it’s time to eat the cake it has formed a hard, crunchy layer in the cake rather than a soft layer, like butter or Nutella. Remove from the blender and stir in the butter and the salt

Chocolate mousse

113 g/4 oz paté a bombe
227 g/8 oz whipping cream
170 g/6 oz dark chocolate, chopped finely

Whip the cream to just under stiff peaks (if you’re unsure, better to whisk it too little than too much). Prepare your paté a bombe if you haven’t already and while it’s whipping, melt your chocolate, careful not to burn it. Add the chocolate to the paté a bombe (make sure you don’t use the whole batch of paté a bombe, but only FOUR ounces of it), which should also be warm and stir until well incorporated. Add in a third of the whipped cream and whisk until it’s smooth and fold in the remaining cream.

Assemble the cake

3 medium bananas
Leftover caramelized hazelnuts

If you have some suitable acetate sheets then take one or two of these and line the spring form tin with it, grease the bottom of the tin with vegetable oil. The acetate sheets needs to be so thick that they don’t feel flimsy and so that they hold their shape in the tin, if you don’t have any then just grease up the sides of the tin. Slice the bananas and put them under the grill on a low heat until they are soft. Put the hazelnut sponge at the bottom of a 6 inch spring form tin. Carefully put the praliné mass on top of it, put the bananas over the praliné. As you assemble the layers you pipe chocolate mousse around the edges, making sure it gets all around the cake. Top with the hazelnut meringue and pipe the rest of the mousse on top of it and spread it as evenly as you can with a palette knife. Put in the fridge overnight and decorate with caramelized hazelnuts. Carefully loosen the spring form tin from the cake and carefully peel of the acetate sheets. If you didn’t use any sheets the risk is that your mousse might break a little bit. If you’re brave then try to move the cake from the bottom of the tin, if you don’t want to risk anything then just leave it.

hazelnut mousse cake

caramelized hazelnuts

chocolate mousse cake

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A successful test – Banana mousse cake with walnuts

If you’re me then you think about food for quite some time every day. If it’s your birthday next week then you think about it even more, because there’s a lot to plan. What restaurant? What type of birthday cake? If you’re me you’re also terribly picky when it comes to what goes in your mouth and since your horizon is very broad and you know of many different types of cakes from different cultures it’s extremely hard to decide what type of birthday cake to make because it feels like there’s endless possibilities. If you then decide on something chances are that it involves an element that you have never made before so you need to make a small, simplified trial cake just to see if you can get that part right.

Crazy? Obsessed? Yeah, that’s me. Last week I decided to try my hand at mousse again, this time a banana mousse. I’ve failed making mousse twice now so I was quite hesitant, but felt like you can only fail so many times. This mousse is a little more complicated than the usual melt chocolate-whip cream-fold together-type mousse that you might be used to, but it’s worth it and you’ll feel very proud of your achievement once you’ve finished it. The recipe is from Joe Pastry and apparently it’s a Bavarian cream. The quantities mentioned here makes half a batch, which was enough for my cake. I used some leftover walnut sponge cake that I froze a few weeks ago. The recipe is my own and it’s a bit wonky and it tends to rise unevenly (although that might be because of the oven in this house). You’ll get more cake than you need from the recipe so you can just cut off a slice the thickness you want (about 2-3 cm I’d say is a good thickness) thus solving the problem with the cake being uneven and eat the leftovers or you can look around online for another recipe.

If like me you love advanced French desserts with mysterious names you should really try making this cake.

Banana mousse cake with walnuts

Walnut sponge

60 g/2.1 oz ground up walnuts
2.5 eggs
60/2.1 grammes sugar
100 g/3.5 oz flour
11 g/0.4 oz melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
25 g/0.9 oz coarsely chopped walnuts

Whip the eggs together with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Mix the flour together with the baking powder and the ground up nuts and fold this into the batter. Fold in the melted butter and the chopped nuts. Pour the batter into a baking tin about 15 cm/6 inches diameter and bake in the oven at 180 degrees C/356 degrees F (165 degrees C/329 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven) until a skewer comes out clean.

Banana mousse

142 g/5 oz peeled bananas
42 g/1.5 oz sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
7 g/1.8 tsp gelatin powder
237 g/1 cup whipping cream

Mix the bananas and sugar together in a blender and add the lemon juice, strain the mixture. Put about a third of the puree in a saucepan, heat it slightly, add the gelatin and stir until it’s dissolved. Pour the contents of the saucepan in a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the puree, let it cool down, stirring every now and then. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Put the bowl with the puree in a cold water bath and stir until it gets thick. Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold in the puree.

To assemble the cake you grease up your tin with some oil, place the slice of sponge in the middle at the bottom of the tin and lastly pour in the mousse, spreading it as well as you can. Let it set in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

banana cake

banana mousse

Easter egg – Chocolate fudge with arrack and raisins

I realized that I had to make an effort one way or the other when it came to Easter. I knew I could get away with not baking anything special but I also knew that Keith were expecting something nice and homemade to go in his Easter egg. Because I’m so interested in the making of chocolate and confectionery I couldn’t buy my way out like everyone else, it would be downright rude. I thought about it for a long time, and decided that I would feel bad if I didn’t put my whole heart in it, so I decided to 1. take a huge risk and make something I’ve never made before (apart from once when I failed miserably) because what I wanted to make would be the perfect thing to give and 2. take an even bigger risk and make my own recipe because I wanted it just right.

Keith loves fudge and he loves rum and raisin. He also really like arrack so I decided to make some arrack and raisin fudge with chocolate melted in it because it goes so well with the arrack. If you don’t have any arrack, then just use rum or whatever boozy stuff you might have at home that you like. Baileys could be nice. My only complains with this fudge is that it breaks when you cut it, but it’s very smooth and tastes great.

You’ll need a huge saucepan. I used the biggest one in the house (a guess is that it holds five litres) and it still nearly boiled over. You’ll want to stir the mixture often (if not all the time) as it cooks to prevent any scorching. You’ll also need a thermometer and you’ll have to do a soft ball test as well just to make sure. Once it’s cooked to the temperature in the recipe you’ll need to let it sit undisturbed until the temperature is under 50 degrees C/122 degrees F (mine crystallized too fast so I had to start beating in the chocolate and the raisins when it was around 60 degrees C/140 degrees F. Since you’ll be using my recipe you might have to do the same), it’s really important not to poke at it too much because if it gets disturbed too much you might end up with a grainy fudge rather than a smooth one. To prevent the fudge going grainy you’ll also need to wash down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush in the start of the cooking process so that there’s no undissolved sugar crystals on the side that later one can seed it with big sugar crystals. And don’t weigh out the arrack, since it contains alcohol 60 ml wont equal 60 g.

Chocolate fudge with arrack and raisins

500 g/17.7 oz whipping cream (About 36% fat content)
450 g/15.9 oz sugar
50 g/1.7 oz glucose syrup
60 ml/2.1 fluid oz arrack
150 g/5.3 oz dark chocolate, chopped finely
120 g/4.2 oz raisins

Line a 20 x 20 cm tin with greaseproof paper and oil the paper slightly. Put the cream, sugar and arrack in a saucepan and bring it to the boil while stirring. Add the glucose syrup and stir until it reaches 118 degrees C/244 degrees F and when the mixture forms a soft, malleable ball when dunked in cold water. Take the saucepan off the stove and let it sit undisturbed for about 30-40 minutes until it’s between 50 and 60 degrees C/122-140 degrees F. Melt the chocolate and pour it over the fudge together with the raisins, mix it in and agitate the fudge until it’s very thick and matte. Transfer the fudge to the tin and pat it down with your hands. It will look greasy but it’ll sink in after a few hours when the fudge has set. Cut it carefully with a knife and wrap in paper and put in an airtight container.

chocolate fudge

Dreaming of Sweden – Rågsiktskakor

It’s almost Easter, and I promise you, I was going to blog about hot cross buns. In my head I imagined making the best hot cross buns ever, using fresh yeast, the plumpest dried fruit and my own spice mix and then using cold liquids and ingredients so that they would need lots and lots of time to rise and thus becoming the most flavourful buns you can imagine, soft and airy and absolutely perfect. However, I was tired. I didn’t want to fiddle around making a new recipe and I didn’t want to make anything too time consuming. Besides, I had a hot cross bun from Morrisons (Or Asda) the other day, I spread it with butter. It was soft alright, but lacking in fruit and it was very salty. At the end of it, I didn’t feel like any more hot cross buns this year.

Yeah, call me lazy. Call me unbelievable because I wont blog about anything Easter related like a good food blogger should do. No Simnel cakes, no hot cross buns, no Easter eggs… But you know what? By the time you’re reading this you’ll be tired of Easter anyway because most likely, thanks to the over commercialization of Easter (and Valentine’s day, and Christmas, and Mother’s day…), you’ll have eaten ten hot cross buns, you’ll have recieved five cheap Easter eggs, you’ll have had Simnel cake until it’s coming out of your ears and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d have some sort of Easter roast that Waitrose claims is something you should eat around Easter, just to boost their sales.

Here’s something special, something more exotic and something you probably haven’t had before. The recipe is from Matgeek and I hope you’ll find it refreshing. I didn’t make these only because I was lazy, it was also because I really missed those sweet types of rye bread that many people in Sweden eat. I remember eating it when I was small, eating it when I was a teenager and I wanted to eat it again.  I recommend that you eat them as an open sandwich with butter and cheese. The original recipe calls for dark syrup but you can’t really get anything similar to the dark syrup we use in Sweden. Treacle tastes too much like licorice so just use golden syrup instead. I also added a little bit more flour to mine, only about 20 grammes.

(I, like many other Swedish people, dunked mine in hot chocolate. Keith thought I was a monster, and watched with horror as I ate)

Matgeeks rågsiktskakor

100/3.5 oz g butter
500/17.7 oz g milk
50 g/1.8 oz fresh yeast
100 g/3.5 oz golden syrup
10 g/0.4 oz salt
3 tsp fennel
3 tsp aniseed
500/17.7 oz g strong white flour
320/11.3 oz g fine rye flour

Melt the butter and pour over the milk. Heat it until it’s lukewarm. Crumble the yeast in a kitchen machine bowl and pour over the milk and butter. Stir until no lumps of yeast remains. Add syrup and salt. Grind the herbs in a pestle and mortar and pour them in as well, stir slightly and pour in the flour. Let the machine knead the bread on a slow speed for ten minutes. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise to twice the size, this will take between 40 minutes and an hour depending on the temperature in your kitchen. Divide the dough in four parts and shape them into round balls, let them sit for ten minutes so the gluten network in them can relax. Flatten them til 5-8 mm/0.2-0.3 inches round discs and prick them with a fork. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 30 minutes or until they feel soft to the touch and the fingerprint your finger leaves behind when poking them springs back.Put the oven on 225 degrees C/437 degrees F (200 degrees C/392 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven), spray them with water and bake them for about ten minutes, opening the oven door half way through to let steam out.

rågsiktskaka

rye bread

Abused and misused – Caramels

Keith never liked caramel much, unless it was in a Lion or a Mars bar. I always agreed with him, we used to joke about it and say that whenever the big mass producing confectionery companies wanted to make a candy bar and wasn’t sure what to pad it out with they would have a meeting and the people would say to each other: “Let’s fill it with wafers or caramel. I know, let’s fill it with both!”. I think I have a point, because how many bars aren’t there like that? Caramel these days is used like a cheap filling ingredient, when you’re too stingy to afford good ingredients or not creative or daring enough to try something new.

It’s a shame it’s gotten to this. I’m saying this because recently I’ve learnt that caramel can be something good. I don’t particularly like Hotel Chocolate because their chocolates all taste so similar but that was still the first time I had a good quality caramel filled chocolate. The caramel in them wasn’t just a sugary substance, it was something that had lots of flavour in itself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that caramel is like vanilla; an ingredient (or lack thereof in the case of vanilla) that is extremely abused by the mass producing companies that can be great if done correctly.

I had finally gotten to the part in Greweling’s book about non crystalline confections and I decided to try to make some caramels, because I felt like the cooking of sugar is a very basic concept that I have to know inside and out. I was a bit apprehensive because people sometimes say that good caramel is hard to make, but it wasn’t that bad. You can’t see it from my pictures but I didn’t stir well enough so there are tiny little spots of browned sugar in some of the caramels that came off the bottom of the pan but apart from that I had no trouble making them. I don’t have a confectionery frame so had to use a tin with greaseproof paper in but I used a really bad type by mistake that everything sticks to so the caramels didn’t look as perfect as I wanted but that’s for practice.

This recipe makes a quarter of the original recipe. The tin size is approximately, you can use a slightly bigger or smaller depending on desired thickness you want. Remember to stir all the time while the caramel cooks.

Greweling’s caramels using condensed milk

125 g/4.4 oz sugar
90 g/3.2 oz sweetened condensed milk
50 g/1.8 oz water
1/4 vanilla pod
108 g/3.8 oz glucose syrup
50 g/1.8 oz butter
1/4 tsp salt

Mix the sugar, sweetened condensed milk, water and vanilla pod scrapings in a saucepan, bring to the boil while stirring constantly. Add the glucose syrup and lower the heat to medium while stirring, let the mixture get to 110 degrees C/230 degrees F, add the butter and keep stirring it until it reaches 117 degrees C/243 degrees F. Do a soft ball test to make sure it’s ready and remove from heat, add the salt and pour the mixture into a 20 x 10 cm/8 x 4 inches tin lined with oiled greaseproof paper, let the caramel get to room temperature before you cut them.

caramels

IMG_0565

Swedish classics – Cinnamon buns

It was only a matter of time before I’d make a post like this because what would a Swedish baking blogger be worth if she haven’t written anything about cinnamon buns? Cinnamon buns are to Sweden what scones are to Britain and what croissants are to France; absolutely necessary. They even have a day on their own, the 4:th of October; Kanelbullens dag.

My mum was never one of those stereotypical mums that bake bread every day, make your lunch (that might be because the school lunches are free in Sweden) or clean your room for you. I don’t blame her for that, in fact I think it was a good thing that she didn’t, it made us children a bit more independent. However, there was one thing that she did for us, that I really appreciated: we would almost never buy mass produced cinnamon buns that are so dry that they taste like cardboard because she’d bake them herself instead. Thanks to this, I have fond memories of “helping” her bake them in the kitchen; brushing the buns with egg wash and putting nib sugar on top of them and of course “trying” the dough and the finished buns just to make sure they were safe to eat. And later on the obligatory stomach pain from eating too much dough.

There is a few things you should know about making cinnamon buns: the dough should be rolled thinner than you think, don’t be stingy with the filling (if it looks dry then it needs more!), when you roll the dough and the filling make sure you roll it quite tight and don’t be tempted to add too much flour. And as always when it comes to baking with fresh yeast: don’t melt the butter and use cold liquids. It takes longer but the result is much better. You might end up with too much filling but it’s always better to end up with too much than too little; buns without an adequate amount of filling aren’t very nice. Put liberal amounts of filling on the dough!

Cinnamon buns

Preferment
100 g/4 oz water
160 g/5.7 oz milk
300 g/10.6 oz strong white flour
25 g/0.9 oz fresh yeast

The rest
210 g/7.4 oz strong white flour
6 g/0.2 oz ground cardamom
100 g/4 oz unsalted butter
50 g/1.8 oz sugar
60 g/2.1 oz honey

5 g/0.2 oz salt

Filling
200 g/7.1 oz butter, cubed at room temperature
150 g/5.3 oz sugar
25 g/0.9 oz cinnamon

Nib sugar or slivered almonds for decoration.

Sugar solution
65 g/2.3 oz sugar
100 g/3.5 oz water

For the preferment you mix the yeast with the liquid until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and mix until it’s a smooth dough. Let it rise slightly in it’s bowl covered with cling film or a clean towel for 45 minutes to an hour, longer or shorter depending on how warm it is in the kitchen. Cube the butter and let it get to room temperature. Add the rest of the flour, cardamom, butter, sugar and honey to the preferment and mix on a slow speed in a kitchen machine for 5 minutes. Add the salt and mix on a medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour again depending on the temperature, it should feel soft to the touch and increased in size. Make the filling by combining room tempered butter with the sugar and the cinnamon. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, spread the filling on the dough making sure to reach the corners and the sides and roll into a roll. Cut into slightly thicker than 1 cm pieces, just under half an inch. Put the oven on 240 degrees C/465 degrees F (215 degrees C/419 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven). Sprinkle nib sugar or slivered almonds on the buns. Make the sugar solution by putting sugar and water in a saucepan and bringing to the boil and then taking it off the stove. Let the buns rise until they have increased in size by quite a lot and feel light and fluffy when you poke them. Bake for a few minutes until they look nicely baked and brush with the sugar solution.

IMG_0480

On my own – Amaretto cherry chocolates

It’s been a while now since I came home from Sweden after doing some chocolate courses there. I came home full of confidence and excited to make some chocolates all by myself at home, however there were lots of chocolates to eat first so we had to spend almost three weeks eating those, which wasn’t much of a chore.

I spent a good deal of time trying to find a chocolate scraper to scrape the chocolate off the moulds and to use when tabling the chocolate, but it was quite difficult to find one. I didn’t fancy making a big order just yet for chocolate supplies and couverture chocolate when I still had 4.5 kilograms to use because I didn’t want any chocolate to go old. The other option I had was to buy one intended for various handy-man tasks, so I looked around and finally managed to find a stainless steel one for 6.5 pounds. It’s not great; the blade is too wide (not wide as in the widest part, but wide on the short end if that makes sense?), and this means that it’s a little bit more out of control because it’s a bit too flexible. However, it works and that will do for now. It arrived last weeks and I said to Keith that this weekend when we’re both free we will make some chocolates.

I didn’t want to make anything too advanced that could go wrong and would put me off so I just settled on a ganache filling with amaretto filled with a quarter of a cherry soaked in kirsch (a quarter of a cherry because they were huge). I’m not sure how the cherries affects the shelf life, but the standard 2-3 weeks should apply. Not that they will last that long; Keith seems to like them.

I was actually quite nervous, because I know how easy it is for the chocolate to go out of temper; one degree can ruin it and you have to start over again. But we set to work on Friday evening. We gathered all our tools and ingredients in the kitchen that kindly had been warmed up to a suitable temperature and set to work. I used some leftover plantain couverture from Michelle Cluizel that was quite fruity and tangy and decided to use some 60% dark chocolate from Chocovic for the shells that to me tasted very sweet and fruity that I thought would complement the filling. Making the ganache proved to be no problems, so we put it in a piping bag to cool down and started on the shells. This involved chopping lots of chocolate because my chocolate was in the form of blocks. After about 20 minutes we started the tempering process, at the last stage when you’re reheating the chocolate we heated it about one and half a degree too much so we had to start over. We filled the mould, shook it to get rid of air bubbles and put it up side down to set. After a few minutes I scraped it again and we filled it, then I put it in another room so that the ganache could crystallize overnight. And we cleaned the kitchen free of chocolate.

The morning after I was quite nervous, again. Today we had to cap the chocolate, and if you’re a perfectionist that’s the hardest bit. We tempered the chocolate again and this time it went fine, and then I poured it over the mould and scraped it off. I got some small holes here and there but it looked nothing like the disaster bottoms that I capped at Chokladskolan, I simply filled them by putting some chocolate on my fingers and then I let them sit for 15 minutes and then put them in the fridge for another 15 minutes to release latent heat. During this time we cleaned like mad, again, because chocolate is messy.

I carefully flipped the mould upside down and the chocolates fell out. They were pretty, but some had a few tiny streaks, so I went through it all in my head, trying to figure out what went wrong. I checked Greweling’s book and the chocolate might be undertempered, as in not enough form five crystals. The temperature were right when we tempered it so I figured that I have to agitate the chocolate more next time I temper, because agitation helps seed the chocolate. However, the streaks were only on some chocolates and they were tiny. Apart from the streaks the chocolates were incredibly shiny and they had a great snap so I figured I got it almost right.

And the bottoms? They are a bit bumpy and you can see where the walls from the shells are but they are much smoother than my previous attempts so I’m not too sad about it. I just need more practice. Greweling says in his book that it helps to heat the chocolate shells with a heat gun (or for you and me, a hairdryer might work) slightly before capping but I don’t want to experiment with that just yet because if you heat the chocolate too much it goes out of temper.

This recipe makes 20-24 chocolates depending on the mould you’re using. You’ll need about 400 grammes of couverture chocolate for the chocolate shells.

Amaretto cherry chocolates

100 g dark couverture chocolate
75 g/2.7 oz cream with a fat content of 36-40%
20 g unsalted butter at room temperature
20 g amaretto
6 big or 12 small cherries soaked in kirsch

Chop the chocolate finely. Bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for one minute. Start stirring the chocolate, starting from the middle and going outwards, stir it until it’s smooth and free of lumps. Add the soft butter and stir until it’s incorporated, then add the amaretto and stir. Transfer to a piping bag and let it cool while you make the chocolate shells. Temper the chocolate and mould the shells as usual. Take the cherries and either quarter or half them to make one piece per chocolate (the mould I used made 24 chocolates). By now the ganache should be cold enough, pipe a tiny blob into each cavity so that the cherries have something to stick to. Fill the rest of the cavity with more ganache, leaving some space for the cap. Let it sit overnight to crystallize. Temper the chocolate again the day after and cap the chocolates as usual.

amaretto cherry chocolates

Just another biscuit – Regenter

I wont lie to you, I’m in a slump right now. I’ve decided to quit biology and work towards what I really want to do. In order to do this I need to get a job to save up funds, any job. Even though I’m not picky and pretty much applies for any job that I see it’s still going to be hard, because that’s just what the times are like right now. I spend my days looking for jobs, pondering on whether I did the right choice regarding the biology or not and listening to various songs from the Warm Bodies movie (no, I usually don’t like teenager – 20 something romantic comedy movies, I don’t know what’s gotten into me). Sometimes things feel rather glum. I get pessimistic and feel old because by now I’m supposed to have a bachelor’s degree, if I was anything like those other young successful people, but I don’t have any degree and I wont get one either.

Life doesn’t always take you where you thought you wanted to be. I thought I wanted to be a biologist and I believed in that dream and I’ve been chasing it since I was 16. It’s hard realizing that you want to do something completely different, you sort of need to reprogram your brain. And if you’re like me and identify yourself with what you’re doing or with what you’re going to do in a few years you either need to adapt to this new identity or realize that you’re not your job.

You ever watched Choccywoccydoodah? It’s a program about a company making extremely intricate cakes consisting to a large part of chocolate. You know the person making the sponge cakes that goes into it? Well, image a baker or a cake maker if you wish. What sort of person do you visualize? The person I see in front of me is a completely different person from the person that he actually is. I imagine a chubby, friendly person that’s not particularly interesting (sorry) but the person I see on TV is quite introvert, he keeps to himself in the room where he bakes the cakes and listens to rock music. He’s not his job, he doesn’t obey any stereotypes that you or I might have, he’s his own person. And I can be my own person too. (I don’t want to be a baker by the way, just thought I’d mention that)

I’m not naive anymore. I know I’ll need to work hard to get to where I want to be. I know I’ll need some luck. I’ll need some contacts. And funds. But I have, after thinking unconsciously and consciously about this for years, realized in the last two months that this is the only thing that I want to, and can, do. I’m cut out for this job, I’m made for it. And I’d be damn good at it, too.

So in the meantime while my head is buzzing and I alter between pessimism and optimism I’m baking easy things, like these biscuits. I stole the recipe from Matgeek but changed it slightly because my home made almond paste was quite soft and not very sweet, I added some extra sugar and a bit more flour but I’ll give you the exact recipe that you see on his blog because the almond paste you’ll be using wont be like mine. And don’t use marzipan, you need to use almond paste. Almond paste is like marzipan but with a higher almond content. In Sweden there used to be a rule that said that almond paste had to contain at least 50% almonds but that’s not the case anymore, however, I’d recommend it. Just make your own if you can’t find any. I also used cherry jam instead of raspberry but you can use whatever you have that you think will be tasty.

Regenter

100 g/3.5 oz almond paste
100 g/3.5 oz plain flour
100 g/3.5 oz butter, cubed at room temperature
Cherry jam, or other jam
Almond slivers or chopped, toasted almonds

Mix the butter with the almond paste until you have a smooth mixture with no lumps. Mix in the flour, as when making short crust pastry you don’t want to overmix, just rub the butter and the almond paste together with the flour until it’s just come together. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour covered with cling film. Divide the dough in two and roll them into two logs that you then roll in the almond slivers. Put in the freezer for an hour. Put the oven on 190 degrees C/374 degrees F (165 degrees C/329 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven). Slice the logs into 4-5 mm (about 0.2 inches) and put them on a tray lined with a baking sheet. Make a slight imprint on the biscuits and put a tiny blob of jam on each. Bake in the oven for ten minutes or until they got a bit of colour but aren’t brown.

regenter

Chokladskolan – Part three

It was early as I packed my bags on Sunday morning to leave for Chokladskolan, thinking to myself that surely today’s course can’t be as long as the other one. I left the small hostel and walked my way towards the school, all while my heavy bag constantly tilted over because the wheels on it it’s on the wrong side and therefore it’s very unstable. I left in very good time but managed to only just get there on time. We didn’t have much theory today, most of it was going to be hands on experience.

I said in my last entry about Chokladskolan that the second course was hectic, and this one was more so. Since we left late the day before the people from yesterday’s course had to do the dishes from yesterday while the new people were assigned tasks; making the praliné paste. This together with the caramelized chocolate was probably what I was looking forward to the most so I was a bit disappointed, but at the same time I understand that it’s not always easy for the teacher which runs the school and the shop that sells chocolate making supplies herself; I think she’s working very hard and she can’t be expected to stay up all night if things takes longer than expected. In any case, I tried extra hard to pick up how to make the praliné paste because I was so interested in it; it basically involved grinding hazelnuts with sugar and mixing this with chocolate and then temper the paste. You need to temper it because it’s not an emulsion like ganache, it’s a fat system with a lot of cocoa butter.

The course also involved making something called “cold mixed ganache” which seems to be the same thing as the slabbed ganache in Greweling’s book. Instead of letting the hot cream melt the chocolate you heat the chocolate to 40 degrees and mix it together with the cream that’s at the same temperature. This ganache tasted very nice and melted faster in your mouth than the other types of ganache we made, however, it was a bit more fiddly to make and it seems to split more easily than other types.

Poires au Chocolat recently wrote about caramelized chocolate and I had an interesting conversation with her in the comment field. Valrhona claims that they were the first making caramelized chocolate and that it’s a complicated process that only they can do right. I’m not entirely sure if they really were but in which case they were indeed early with it. Teacher said that she first came across caramelized white chocolate at a “French baking blog back in 2009”. This blog turned out to belong to someone called David that went to a course held by Valhrona… Sometimes it feels like the world is a small place. No one can say that it’s hard to make caramelized chocolate, all you need is an oven tin and some white chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. You simply put the white chocolate in the tin and bake in the oven at a low temperature stirring every now and then until it’s a slightly darker beige colour and smells caramelized. If wanted you can stir in some sea salt, which breaks off nicely against the very sweet chocolate.

We also tried to dip cut ganache with a chocolate fork, something that’s harder than it looks. This is something that I’ve previously overlooked but I realize that this method of making chocolates can produce a huge array of different styles. You can dip round truffles and then pipe a different coloured chocolate on top for a nice effect, you could make patterns on the chocolates with the dipping fork or you could decorate them with a gold leaf. An example of a chocolatier that doesn’t make any moulded chocolates at all (apart from big things like Easter eggs as far as I know) but instead is hand dipping chocolate centers is Artisan du Chocolat. I used to think that dipping things in chocolate wasn’t very advanced at all but it is, and many professionals are doing it. One perk of dipping centers is that you usually get a higher filling to chocolate rate which depending on what filling you’re using can be very nice.

In between all of this we moulded or shells and filled them, as usual. We went overtime a little again and everyone wanted to make a few purchases in the supplies shop so it was quite hectic and confusing but I managed to pick up some more chocolate couverture (Tobago from Chocovic) as well as two chocolate moulds.

All in all I think these courses are worth taking if you have a serious interest and can’t afford schools like Le Cordon Bleu or if you don’t have the time for it. It’s up to you what you’ll end up getting from the course in terms of knowledge, so make sure you pay attention and remember that even though you’re paying for the courses there is still hard work going on, so don’t expect a relaxing day with long sit down meals with some chocolate; be prepared to work hard or you’ll most likely end up missing something.

I’ve learnt a lot from these courses and I’ll practice at home for a few months and then I’ll most likely return. I’ve ordered a chocolate scraper (the last tool I needed!) and if it arrives this week then I’ll hopefully make my very first own batch of artisan chocolates this weekend!

This is what the caramelized white chocolate looked like.

The moulds ready to be filled, the one to the right is a magnetic one with a transfer sheet in it and the one to the left is a normal mould with lustre dust painted on it, for a nice effect.

chocolates

The amaretto nut chocolate, the pear chocolate and the raspberry truffle from the day before. The chocolates were a bit battered from the travelling…

Chokladskolan – Part two

A week went by and then it was time to travel to Nora again. The continuing courses start earlier than the first beginner course so I had to book a room at a hostel and sleep there on Friday night. Nora is a tiny little town that shouldn’t be allowed to be called a town because it’s more like a village. There’s lots of nature and wooden houses and everything feels very old-fashioned and Swedish. The hostel I stayed in was tiny, it consisted of two rooms, a utility room and a bathroom. I arrived and went to bed almost immediately and in the morning I got a lift to Chokladskolan from the wonderful hostess.

Just like last time everyone gathered around the table in the dining room and we had a theory lesson that was slightly longer than last time. We were told that there are many people that skip this particular course and that it’s a shame because it’s a course that gives you some very valuable knowledge about how to calculate a ganache recipe with a good shelf life. Many people that do the courses at Chokladskolan are interested in selling the chocolates they will make at home and maybe even start their own company and even these people often don’t take this course. If you’re selling your chocolates you must make sure that they wont go bad!

We were given papers with information about the contents of various things such as sugar and milk fat in different types of couverture chocolates and some information about guidelines that are good to stick to when formulating your own recipes, such as a water content that’s not more than 20%. We were then given some tasks; we had to work out how much of all the different ingredients to put in some different types of ganaches with respect to the content of various compounds that we worked out by checking the percentage of fat, water, sugar and other things in cream, butter, couverture and other ingredients. This sounds complicated but I quite enjoyed it; I’ve done maths similar to this in my biology studies.

Then we set to work, one group were to make a white chocolate ganache with lemon and a milk chocolate ganache with calvados and cassia and one group, my group, were to make two dark chocolate ganaches; one with a raspberry puree and the other with a blackcurrant puree. This involved reducing the purees and thus it was quite time consuming.

The courses after the very first foundation course are quite hectic. Often one group is responsible of one particular thing and the remaining groups are responsible for the other parts that makes up the course contents. This requires you to be able to pay attention and take glances at what the other groups are doing as you’re doing the dishes/moulding your chocolates/reducing your puree/etc to make sure that you’re learning everything you’re supposed to. This is unfortunate in some ways, sometimes you wish there was more time so that you could go through everything a bit slower but if that was the case then the courses wouldn’t fit in so well in busy people’s schedules, they wouldn’t be one day anymore. As long as you really pay attention, listen to the theory bits and read through the papers again when you get back home as well as go through everything in your head a few times then you’re OK. These courses can be whatever you make them, either you pay attention, ask question and re-read the papers at home in order to become a good chocolatier or you don’t pay attention, don’t ask questions and don’t bother with the theory in order to not get much out from taking the courses.

In between all these tasks we tempered chocolate and made the moulded chocolates with it. Ingela showed us how to marble different types of chocolate (dark, milk, white) in the shells to produce a beautiful depth of colour and she also showed us how to use magnetic transfer moulds even though this is something that comes up on course number three and not number two, a nice bonus! We moulded the white lemon filling in dark chocolate shells made with magnetic moulds with lemon transfer sheets on them, the calvados and cassia in white chocolate shells with marbled milk and dark chocolate using tear shaped and egg shaped moulds, the blackcurrant ganache in coloured white chocolate shells using lip shaped moulds and the raspberry filling in white chocolate half spheres that we then put together, rolled in cocoa butter and rolled in freeze dried raspberry powder.

Even though it felt very hectic and busy to me we went overtime by an hour and a half. I think we were all quite tired when we headed back to our homes/rooms. I felt like I’d learnt a lot and had lots more to look into regarding the course content in order to really understand it in depth once I get home to England, because I always want to know more and perfect the techniques.