Walnut, Dark Chocolate and Honey Flourless Cake

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Some unions seem to make perfect seasonal sense. Think spring and a bowl of freshly picked, oozy strawberries to dip in cream, comes summer and hardly anything will come as close as the perfect marriage of stone fruit and almonds. Autumn is heralded by an abundance of figs best served along with pistachios and ripe cheeses and as the weather cools ever further, what could we crave more than opulent, dark chocolate and freshly shelled walnuts? As much as they are wonderful enjoyed as they are, as an after dinner treat (better still with a shot of Grappa…), they give their very best when turned into a rich, molten cake batter, enriched by Italians cream cheese of choice, mascarpone.

INGREDIENTS, serves 8

170 gr of dark chocolate chips

170 gr of Mascarpone

2 tablespoons of Cointreau

2 tablespoons of honey

120 gr of shelled walnuts, ground in a food processor

200 gr of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of dutch cocoa powder

1 scant tablespoon of baking powder

3 eggs, whole

HOW TO

1. Melt the chocolate in  a double boiler or in the microwave. Add honey and liquor and mix through. Add the mascarpone and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Process the nuts with the sugar and cocoa. Add the baking powder and mix through.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the nuts mixture.

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4. Line a cake tin (or a muffin tin, if making individual cakes) with grease-proof paper, pour in the batter and bake in a medium over (170 C, 340 F) for 35-40 minutes or until the sides are slightly cracked but the centre is still a little wobbly (if using a muffin tin, baking time will shorten by 5-10 minutes). Allow to cool at room temperature in the tin before serving.

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5. Serve dusted with icing, sugar, cocoa powder or drizzled with honey, preferably along with a generous helping of vanilla gelato or whipped cream.

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6. Start dieting tomorrow…

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Note:

Check out my other flourless chocolate cake recipe, Torta Gianduja (hazelnut and Chocolate Cake)

Valentine’s Day Treat: Coconut and Dark Chocolate Macaroons

DSCN0036Have you been looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day treat recipe? Have you forgotten about today or have you been in denial about it, only to wake up this morning feeling a slight sense of guilt because you didn’t get your better half any tokens of your appreciation? You are not alone! Welcome to my 6 am panicking thought “OMG, it’s Valentine’s Day and I forgot about it!”. And so, while my darling man was still soundly in bed, I quietly rushed downstairs, whipped up a batter in less than 5 minutes, allowed it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes while running on the cross-trainer (all the while wearing a face mask to make myself look pretty for our romantic date later on in the day) and by the time I had my shower and got dressed, these chewy, delectable coconut bites were out of the oven ready to be drizzled with thick, syrupy dark chocolate. Talk about multitasking… Happy Valentine’s Day!

INGREDIENTS, makes 12 large cookies

3 egg whites

pinch of salt

2/3 cup of caster sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

HOW TO

1. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes or until soft peaks form.

2. Add the sugar, a little at a time and keep whipping the egg whites until thick and glossy.

3. Gently fold in the coconut and vanilla.

4. Dollop 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. MAke sure to leave them well distanced as they will grow a little whilst baking.

5. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring your oven temperature to 170 C (340 F).

6. Bake the macaroons for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom in dry and golden and the top is slightly browned and firm. They will feel a little soft but they will continue to firm up as they cool down, at room temperature.

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7. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then drizzle with melted chocolate. Rest until the chocolate has hardened, then surprise you beloved with your home-baked, love-filled treat.

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Colomba: an Italian Easter Bread, with Prosecco and Chocolate chips

Colomba is a classic Italian Easter enriched bread, similar to the more illustrious Panettone, traditionally baked in a  dove-shaped mould, hence its name (colomba in Italian means dove).

The dough is built in various stages and the thought alone may be enough to put off many people with busy lives, but , don’t despair! The stages themselves are quite straight-forward and the actual labour involved is negligible, if you are using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.I have to admit you probably need to have quite a large amount of nuttiness to make this from scratch, since you can buy the ready-made stuff in well-stocked Italian delis, but the ego boost you get by creating this yourself is definitely worth the effort.I wish to thank a few fellow bloggers for inspiring me to have a go. Without their knowledge and advise I doubt I’d be posting anything tonight…

My heart-felt Grazie to Adriano of  Profumo di Lievito,  Vittorio of Viva la Focaccia and the vivacious Paoletta of Anice e Cannella.

Step 1 , making the ferment

50 ml (1/4 cup) of lukewarm milk

2 tablespoons of dry yeast

40 gr  (1/3 cup)of all purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the milk and stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well. Rest the ferment at room temperature, well covered with a tea towel, for 1 hour.

Step 2 -Building the dough-

the ferment from step 1

150 ml ( a little less than 2/3 cups) of Prosecco (Italian sparkling dry white wine)

100 gr all-purpose flour

Work the ferment with Prosecco, then mix the flour in. Rest at room temperature, well covered, for 1 hour.

Step 3 – Building the dough-

the dough from step 2

2 tablespoons of sugar

90 gr (3/4 cup) of all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons of soft butter

If you have a stand mixer, you might need to get it out now. The next two stages require a lot of strong kneading and if you mean to do this by hand you are a saint.

Mix the dough from step 2 with sugar, then add the flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter and knead for a further 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.

Step 4 – Building the dough with the addition of fats, proteins and flavourings

The dough from step 3

280/320 gr (2-1/2/2-3/4 cups) of all-purpose flour

100 gr (1/2 cup) of sugar

2 tablespoons of honey

60 gr (1/4 cup)of soft butter, cubed

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 eggs

zest of 1 orange

100 gr (1/2 cup) of mixed candied peel, mixed with 1 table-spoon of flour (to stop them drop to the bottom of the cake)

100 gr (3/4 cup)of dark chocolate chips

Add the flour to the rested dough, knead on low speed for 1 minute, then add the sugar , vanilla and honey keep kneading for 3-4 minutes. Add the butter, a little at a time and, when well incorporated, the eggs, one at a time. Don’t panic if the dough looks really wet at this stage, the constant kneading will make it come together in around 15/20 minutes or until it looks transparent if stretched. Add a bit more flour if needed. The dough should be soft and manageable, not sticky and wet.

After this time, add the peel, zest and chocolate chips and amalgamate.

Tip the dough onto an oiled container, cover with a tea towel and rest for 1 hour.

Place the dough onto a floured surface, stretch it with floured hands to shape a rectangle and fold it into three, then shape it back into a ball and rest it in the oiled bowl until it has doubled in size, approximately 2-3 hours.

Stretch and fold the dough one last time, than put it into the mould you wish to use. I couldn’t find a dove-shaped one, so I resorted to a pretty star. Still festive!

Cover well with a tea towel and rest overnight in the fridge.

Step 5 -Glazing and Baking (finally!)-

The dough, well risen in its mould

30 gr (1/4 cup) of ground almonds

70 gr (1/3 cup) of sugar

2 egg whites

2 handfuls of almonds

Bring your oven to  180 C (350 F).

Make a glaze by mixing together the ground almond with the icing sugar and the egg whites.

Take the Colomba out of the fridge and gently glaze it. Scatter the almond on top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.

Cool at room temperature, in its mould.

This laborious Easter bread will keep fresh for 2 days and will still be delicious tosted and dusted with using sugar after 4 or 5 days.

Happy Easter!

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Hazelnut Amaretti (Amaretti alle Nocciole)

Just when I thought I couldn’t make Amaretti because I was out of almond meal (and in no way inclined to take a trip to the supermarket with child and toddler in tow) I found a half-packet of hazelnut meal hidden in the cupboard. The idea struck me immediately, but what if it wouldn’t work? Good news, it did! The savoury nuttiness of the hazelnuts , combined with the gentle sweetness of the meringue and the bitter kick of cocoa powder turns this classic Italian cookie into an irresistible grown-up affair. The addition of chocolate chips has the potential to lure children into tasting them and enjoying them with gusto.

Ingredients

1 egg white, at room temperature

75 gr (1/3 cup +1 tablespoon) of sugar+extra for sprinkling

140 gr (1 cup +2 tablespoons) of hazelnut meal (roasted ground hazelnuts*)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 scant tablespoon of cocoa powder

24 dark chocolate chips

How to

1. In a clean dry bowl, beat the egg white with the sugar until they are stiff and shiny. If you are impatient, like I am, I suggest using a hand-eld electric beater to do the job.

2. Gently fold in the hazelnut meal, add vanilla and cocoa and mix well until all the ingredients are well amalgamated. Don’t panic it , at first , it looks like the egg white won’t be enough to bind the dry ingredients. It will come together in 1 or two minutes and you will be left with a soft, sticky batter.

3. Shape the dough into 12 balls, they size of a walnut and dust each ball with  sugar.

4. Gently push your index finger in the middle of each ball to create a little crate. Push two chocolate chips into each crate.

5. Put the shaped amaretti on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

6. In the meantime bring your oven temperature to 170 C (340 F).

7. Bake for 25/30 minutes or until the amaretti are slightly cracked, but retain some softness. To make sure they are cooked through check that the base is firm and tanned.

Cool them at room temperature (not in the oven,as my friend Helen did…) and enjoy with coffee, gelato, hot chocolate or, if you can handle it, some fiery Grappa.

* Toast shelled hazelnuts in a hot oven for ten to fifteen minutes. As soon a you take them from the oven, rub the nuts vigorously with a towel to remove their bitter brown skins. Grind in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade.

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Golden Syrup Chocolate and Oats cookies

Imagine biting into a golden, soft cookie studded with perfect white and dark chocolate pearls.

Imagine tasting its buttery and slightly syrupy  crumb, as it softly dissolves in your mouth.

Imagine a cookie dough that takes 5 minutes to make and 10 minutes to bake…

Yes, this delectable little nugget can be yours in just about 15 minutes, so turn your oven on to 170 Celsius (340 F) and put the coffee on!

In a small pot, over very low heat, melt 110 gr (1/2 cup)of butter with 5 tablespoons of golden syrup and 1 scant teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

Sift 170 gr (1 cup and 1/3) of self-raising flour and add 1/2 cup (about 50 gr) of rolled oats. Mix the butter in and add 1 egg.

Add 1 small handful each of white and dark chocolate chips.

Shape to form a slightly sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 8 little balls and place them on a oven tray lined with baking paper, well distanced apart.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies develop a very light tan.

Eat without regrets, life’s too short!

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Egg-free Oat and Chocolate cookies

As I start typing this post, I need to stop, reach into the cookie tin and help myself to my third one… They are that good!

Make sure you have a nice Cappuccino or Earl Gray tea to dunk them in…

This recipe is so easy and the absence of eggs is not, by any means, my attempt to subscribe to some fashionable fad diet.

I simply didn’t have any in the fridge and I was too lazy to go but them at the shop.

Turns out, cookies don’t necessarily need eggs.

Cream 1/2 cup of soft butter with 1/2 a cup of packed brown sugar,a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste.

In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 a cup of rolled oats, 3/4 of self-raising flour and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Add the buttery mix to the dry ingredients, along with 80 gr of roughly chopped up chocolate ( I used left-over chocolate eggs) and, if too dry and floury, pour in a table-spoon of milk, bearing in mind that this dough should stay rather firm.

Pout the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes, then, with wet hands, divide it into 10 balls and place them, well distanced,  onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Gently flatten the balls with the back of your hand. Place tray back in the fridge for a further 10 minutes.

In the meantime bring up your oven to 175 Celsius (around 350 Farenheit).

Bake for around 15 minutes, to until slightly golden, but still soft in the middle. As they cool down, they will crunch up a little.

I will concede this cookie recipe is not traditional Italian, but the way my children gathered around the cooking bench to help me make them, and the way they both ended up covered in chocolate and flour is indeed a traditional Italian Sunday Mess!

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