Black Forest Gateaux

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I try to refrain from baking large cakes too often. There’s only three people living at home. Ideally, most cakes would need to be consumed within three days. If we were to consume it within the recommended time, we would be gobbling up a hell of a lot of cake each day. This is the main reason as to why I rarely bake large cakes. But when I do indulge myself, I like to do it properly.

I love sponge cake, coffee cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake and every type of cake imaginable. One of my all time favourites is definitely black forest gateaux. There is a number of reasons as to why I love this cake.

It was one of my grandmother’s favourites, which shows that she was a woman of great taste. It’s difficult to find a reason to dislike this cake. The sponge is drizzled with kirsch or even the syrup from the jar of morello cherries used. It absorbs this liquid, almost making the cake appear to be juicy. The sponge needs this liquid as it is quite a dense mixture. The kirsch or morello cherry juice is vital and it does not disappoint.

The gateaux is chock full of cherries, what’s not to love? I love cherries, whether they are fresh, morello or glace. I could eat them all year round and I’ll do just that. Add chocolate shavings and fresh cream to that and what do you achieve? Just the most scrumptious of cakes in creation.

Black forest gateaux kicks all other cake’s ass. You should kick cake ass too, by baking this and indulging yourself. 🙂

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 85g butter, melted, extra for greasing
  • 6 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp madagascan vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 large jar of morello cherries, half chopped, half whole, juice reserved
  • 4 tbsp kirsch
  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 100g dark chocolate, grated

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/170 Fan/ Gas 4.
  2. Line a springform cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Place the eggs and sugar into a heatproof bowl which will fit over a saucepan.
  4. Add the eggs and sugar into a bowl and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, not allowing the water to come into contact with the bowl (au bain-marie).
  5. Whisk the mixture until it’s pale and thick.
  6. Remove from the heat and whisk until cooled slightly (approximately 5 minutes).
  7. Sift the flour and cocoa together, gently folding into the egg mixture with a spatula.
  8. Fold in the vanilla and butter.
  9. Transfer to the prepared springform tin and smooth the surface using a palette knife.
  10. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the cake shrinks away from the sides.
  11. Turn out onto a wire rack, remove the paper and leave to cool.
  12. Carefully cut the cake into two or three layers.
  13. Combine the reserved cherry juice with the kirsch and drizzle a third or half of the mixture over each layer.
  14. Whip the cream until it just holds shape.
  15. Place a layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Spread with cream and half of the chopped cherries or all of the cherries if there is only two layers to the cake.
  16. Repeat if using three layers.
  17. Top with the last sponge, baked side up. Gently press down.
  18. Neatly cover the side with a layer of cream. Put the remaining cream in a piping bag with a star nozzle.
  19. Press grated chocolate with your hands onto the cream laden sides.
  20. Pipe swirls of cream around the outer circle of the cake and place the whole cherries inside the swirls.
  21. Sprinkle over the remaining grated chocolate.
  22. Keep cake covered and consume within three days.

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The Best Nectarine Ice-Cream

To me, this ice-cream screams Summer. It is the definition of indulgence on a hot August day which just happen to be in abundance this Summer, to my utter delight.

Honestly, hot Summers have been far and few between in Ireland over the past few years. I often find myself diving in front of the electric fan, who also happens to be my new most valued companion, in the hope that I will cool down somewhat. It provides temporary relief to the abnormal heat, but once I venture back outside, all past efforts to control my temperature are forgotten.

Ice is a reliable friend too! I have a new found love for it. Actually, anything frozen receives a well earned pat on the back from me, a job well done for dwelling within the depths of the deep freeze. However, there is a clear winner – my heart lies with ice-cream. But only a fruit variety will do the trick during this insurmountable heat.

On a normal day, a cool one that is, chocolate or caramel ice-cream satisfies my cravings. At this moment in time, it’s all about fruits that are at their best this season. Nectarines and peaches are my favourite fruits to enjoy during hot Summer months. So I thought, why not use one of these delicious fruits as a main ingredient in cold, creamy ice-cream?SAM_0098

I decided to be brave and opt for a nectarine flavoured ice-cream. There is one problem however, which makes me hesitant about indulging in a bowl of it for dessert or as a naughty, unforgivable snack. This problem is the ordeal when it comes to using an ice cream scoop.

Okay, I agree, I should probably, most definitely allow the ice-cream to thaw ever so slightly before I attempt to remove a scoop from the tub. I also probably should refrain from using an ice-cream scoop which I have purchased from a bargain shop, as dark things will inevitably happen.

One day, my prayers were answered when I visited www.vikingdirect.ie and I realised that they now stock cooking supplies for the budding/keen cook. On this website, I stumbled across an original Zeroll Ice-Cream Scoop – one of which I’ve always wanted. It has heat conductive fluid sealed within the handle, to make the whole experience even more awesome! They’re truly wonderful scoops and an absolute pleasure to use. We use two of these scoops in college and they are closely guarded by lecturers and coveted by students who use them for not only creating a perfect scoop of ice-cream but also for a flawless scoop of mashed potato.

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I am now a Culinary Queen as I have one all to myself! Considering that Viking Direct is an Irish business which is close to home, I knew that this product would arrive very swiftly. It was probably the fastest delivery I have ever experienced. I soon buried my head and got to work on making a batch of nectarine ice-cream. Soon after this, I was serving it with my new ice-cream scoop like there was no tomorrow.

I have one in my possession and you should too! It’s now one of my most valued utensils. So get into your kitchen, get that ice-cream maker going, invest in a decent ice-cream scoop and whip up some nectarine ice-cream. It will make your Summer just that little bit more special. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 5 nectarines, washed, peeled and cored
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 180g sugar
  • 500ml cream
  • 100ml milk

Method:

  1. In a blender, place the nectarine flesh and the milk. Blend until smooth and combined.
  2. Weigh the milk mixture and ensure that the combined weight reaches 240ml. This will depend on the weight of your nectarines. If the mixture is too light, add milk until the desired weight is reached. If the mixture is too heavy, remove liquid until the desired weight is reached.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy (1 to 2 minutes).
  4. Whisk in the sugar until completely blended (1 to 2 minutes).
  5. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk until combined.
  6. Place the mixture in your ice-cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Refreshing Lemon and Lime Cupcakes

I do not think that I know of anyone who doesn’t enjoy a cupcake. There’s one for everyone, as well as there being one to suit each season.

During the harsh Winter months, everyone needs comfort food. Food which provides a shoulder to cry on, the warmth of a good cuddle. For me, this comes in the form of a double chocolate cupcake.

Autumn can be welcomed with a red velvet cupcake, representing the leaves which flow in the wind.

For me, Spring means something simple, like a vanilla cupcake which is topped with simple freshly whipped cream.

And in this case, Summer is represented by a refreshing and insanely flavoursome lemon and lime cupcake. This concoction is probably the best cupcake I’ve made to date.

You would be crazy not to try this bad girl. A lemon cupcake with a zingy lime buttercream. What’s not to love?

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Lemon Cupcake

Ingredients (Makes 10):

  • 120g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 40g unsalted butter/margarine, at room temperature
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C/Gas 3/325F and line a standard 12-hole cupcake pan with 10 cases.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and butter in the bowl of your electric mixer. Using a paddle attachment/handheld whisk, beat on a slow speed until a sandy consistency has been achieved. Gradually pour in the milk, beating until just incorporated.
  3. Add the egg, beating until incorporated while scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Do not overmix.
  4.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases until they are just a little over half full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack, prior to frosting.

 

Lime Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp grated lime zest, plus extra to decorate
  • 1 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Method:

  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat together the icing sugar, unsalted butter and lime zest at a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together.
  2. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and add the milk and lime juice.
  3. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to a high speed. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, for approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Pipe or frost the cupcakes by hand once they have cooled completely. Sprinkle with the extra lime zest.

 

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Seasonal Rhubarb Crumble with an Organic Madagascan Vanilla and Orange Syrup

Rhubarb. Seasonality at its best. I literally jump at the opportunity to cook with rhubarb once it comes into season. Rhubarb season runs from April to September. There is nothing quite like cooking with seasonal produce. I sometimes question my cooking with ingredients which are not in season. They simply do not possess the depth of their potential flavour, which they would possess if they were in season.

Seasonal produce can also be inexpensive as there is an abundance of it. So why not take advantage of what is in season and enjoy the wide range of flavours that are available?

For me, this season is all about rhubarb. Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. I like my rhubarb to have that little bit of tartness. It is that tart, sourness which defines it. Of course, enough sugar needs to be added so that it is edible.

There are so many desserts which can be created with this beautiful ingredient. Rhubarb and ginger pavlova, rhubarb tarts and tartlets, rhubarb fool and of course, rhubarb crumble.

I made mine with the most mouth-watering organic Madagascan vanilla and orange syrup. I’ve never tasted anything quite like this vanilla. It puts vanilla extracts and essences to shame. They can take a backseat from now on. I used freshly squeezed orange juice too – because that stuff from the carton doesn’t even slightly compare.

So get out there and enjoy this wonderful seasonal ingredient. It’s sitting there waiting to be appreciated.

Ingredients:

For the rhubarb base:

  • 1 bunch/500g fresh rhubarb, cut into 4cm pieces
  • 100g caster sugar

For the syrup:

  • 120g caster sugar
  • juice of 1 large orange
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 vanilla pod, split

For the crumble:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g unsalted butter/margarine
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • large pinch of ground cinnamon

Method:

For the rhubarb base:

  1. Place the chopped rhubarb into a rectangular, oven-proof dish and sprinkle with the caster sugar.

For the syrup:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a heavy-based saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Remove from the heat once a syrup has formed.
  4. Pour this syrup over the rhubarb and mix until combined.

For the crumble:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
  2. Rub in the fat until a breadcrumb consistency has been achieved.
  3. Sprinkle over the rhubarb and syrup mixture.
  4. Bake at 190C/180C Fan for approximately 45 minutes, or until the crumble topping is golden brown.
  5. Serve with custard, ice-cream or cream.

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Lemon Meringue Pie

Who doesn’t love lemon meringue pie? It’s zesty, it’s sweet, it’s zingy, it’s wonderful and it’s smile-inducing. And probably diabetes-inducing if you eat more than one slice. Which I did. I ate waaaay more than one slice. But who can blame me?

I love meringue, it’s just lovely. It’s so light and fluffy. Lemon curd reminds of spring. It’s bright and cheerful and a joy to eat. These two things combined into a pie cause for a very happy sweet-tooth. I baked this pie for my family, with everyone tasting it to give their feedback. They loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy. My mom especially loved it. Maybe I’ll even make one for her for Mother’s Day. Maybe you could make one for your mother too. She’ll love it! I promise. 🙂

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For the sweet pastry:

Ingredients:

  • 50g sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Sieve the flour and salt. Lightly rub in the butter in order to achieve a sandy consistency.
  2. Make a well in the centre. Add the sugar and the beaten egg.
  3. Mix the sugar and egg until dissolved.
  4. Gradually incorporate the flour and butter, lightly mixing to a smooth paste. Allow to rest before using.
  5. Once rested, roll out on a floured work surface. Drape over a well-greased pie dish and place over gently, pressing down all areas carefully. Remove the excess pastry.
  6. Blind bake in a preheated oven at 180C for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden in colour.
  7. Leave to cool before filling.

For the Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 120ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Method:

  1. Rub the sugar and the lemon zest together in a bowl.
  2. Strain the lemon juice into a saucepan. Add the eggs, egg yolks, butter and sugar/zest mixture. Whisk to combine.
  3. Over a medium heat, whisk continuously for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken.
  4. As the first bubbles appear, remove from the heat. Cool before filling the prepared pastry case.

For the Meringue:

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 60ml water

Method:

  1. To make the sugar syrup, boil the water and sugar until the temperature reaches 121C.
  2. Place the egg whites into a bowl and beat until stiff. Continue beating and slowly pour in the boiling sugar syrup.
  3. Continue to beat until cool.
  4. Place this Italian meringue into a piping bag and pipe decoratively onto the tart.
  5. Brown under a grill/salamander or with a blow-torch.

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Sweet Parsnip and Apple Soup

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I know, I know. Yet another soup recipe. I just love the stuff! It’s so easy to eat, especially if you don’t feel like having anything too heavy. Not to mention it being extremely healthy and comforting. I make a pot of soup each week, trying to mix things up every time I do. No one wants the same soup every week, do they? This week I made a wonderful carrot and parsnip soup. Was there an abundance of parsnips in my house you might ask? Yes, yes there was. This soup was so smooth, a puree even. It was delicious. Yet it was nowhere near as good as the parsnip and apple soup that I had made the week before.

Why is it that I had never thought of adding fruit to soup? This soup was discovered when I went with my mom and sister to Bellissimo, a Mediterranean restaurant with a local twist which is situated in Waterford City. We went there for a light lunch. I had the most beautiful roasted goats cheese roulade salad. This salad was exciting and flavourful, unlike the salads that I make at home, which are a chore to eat. My sister opted for the crab cakes, which were delightful little round balls of deep flavour. My mother chose to go for an open sandwich and the soup of the day, which was of course, parsnip and apple soup. My mom would never normally choose soup when we dine out, but she loved the sound of this particular one, and for good reason. The apple gave this soup a slight texture of stewed apple, but it was so much lighter than that. I can only explain the soup as tasting light and fluffy. It had a wonderful sweetness to it. It wasn’t too sweet, but just right. The parsnip gave the soup the earthiness that it needed. Root vegetables are very dependable. It was just perfect. I love how so few ingredients can make such a memorable dish. 

We needed to experience this amazing concoction of flavours again, so I made a batch of this soup very soon. My own take was extremely close in flavour, which can only mean that Bellissimo also chose to use few ingredients. It’s what is done with the ingredients that matters.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 400g parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 400g apples (any sweet variety), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for frying

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until fragrant.
  2. Add the parsnips and apples and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the stock, just about covering the contents of the pan.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the parsnip is soft.
  5. Leave to cool a little before blending.
  6. Blend and return to the pan.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Cream or creme fraiche can be added at this stage, if you prefer your soup a little creamier.
  9. Serve with home made bread.

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Flavoursome Courgette and Garlic Soup

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Garlic. Garlic. Garlic. Mmmmm.

Whenever I’m out and about, wandering around, I can smell it. It’s always there. Whether I pass Ginos, Espresso, La Palma or any eatery, the story is the same. The smell of garlic is wafting like it has never wafted before.

I add garlic to all of my dishes. It’s even better if it’s organic garlic. But beggars can’t be choosers! Any garlic will suffice. 

One day Ben and I went out for lunch with his parents. We went to the most beautiful cafe I have ever been to. Their soup of the day was a courgette and garlic soup. It’s so refreshing to see an interesting soup on the menu. The usual vegetable, mushroom, and tomato and basil concoctions are tiresome. I would never ordinarily order soup when I eat, especially when the soups aren’t anything out of the ordinary. This day was a sunny one and the sunshine shone through the glass, heating me up. This meant that I chose not to order soup. Perhaps, had it been a cold, dull day, I would have opted for it. However, Ben daringly went for the courgette and garlic soup with a panini. I of course, had to slurp some. It was probably the most perfectly balanced soup I’ve ever had.

It was light and fragrant and it hit the palette in all the right ways. The garlic was strong, but not overpowering. The courgette was as simple and subtle as ever, but it could still be detected amidst the garlic party. What isn’t there to love about courgette? It tastes of health and it doesn’t spend a lifetime on the hips. Three cheers for courgettes!

Anyway, I tried my best to recreate the deliciousness that was this bowl of soup. I was unsure as to whether the chef had roasted the garlic and the courgette or not. I skipped this process and merely chucked everything into the pot. Surprisingly, my own version was close in flavour to that of the cafe’s. I added a little bit of ginger and organic creme fraiche at the end because it was missing a little something. The addition of these ingredients did it for me. 

Hopefully this pot of soup will do it for you too. 🙂

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 large courgettes, cut into chunks
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook on a low-medium heat until fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to burn.
  3. Add the courgette and the stock.
  4. Bring to the boil.
  5. Cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.
  7. Return to the pan and adjust the seasoning.
  8. Add the ginger and the creme fraiche.
  9. Bring to the boil. 
  10. Serve and enjoy. 

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