Friday, April 26, 2013

White Chocolate Macadamia Slice


In our house we like to enjoy an evening tea (or glass of milk for the little ones), a couple of hours after dinner, along with a small bite of something sweet like biscuits. These white chocolate macadamia slices were made exactly with our evening tea in mind.

The lovely biscuit base has a delightfully nutty texture, and topped with milky white chocolate these slices makes a rich buttery treat.
I like white chocolate and macadamia nuts as a pairing, but what's great about this recipe is that depending on your taste and occasion you could switch this to milk chocolate or dark chocolate, and whatever nuts you prefer. Really, you could make a whole variety of different pairings - dark chocolate and pistachio, milk chocolate and walnuts... the variations are numerous.
Add sugar sprinkles like I did and you end up with a pretty looking chocolate biscuit essentially!

Even better, they require no baking, and would make an easy party treat to serve.
White Chocolate Macadamia Slice

Makes 12 slices

125g plain biscuits
50g (half cup) butter
60ml (1/4 cup) sweetened condensed milk
50g (1/3 cup) macadamias, chopped

For the topping:

100g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
Sugar balls for decorating

Grease a small rectangular or square pan, or glass dish (about 9x9 in') and line with parchment paper. Process the biscuits until very fine, and then mix in the macadamias. In a small saucepan combine the butter and condensed milk, and stir over low heat until smooth. Take off the heat and add the biscuit mixture to the butter. Press firmly into pan or dish. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes until set. Meanwhile melt the white chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Spread over the biscuit layer, and sprinkle sugar balls over. Refrigerate until firm before cutting into squares.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mini Baklava Cups

My first memories of baklava are from growing up in London, when my dads Egyptian friend would come over to visit, always armed with a huge tray of fresh Lebanese baklava. I can't tell you how many little pastries would be devoured within minutes, as the whole family delighted in the various shaped Arabic sweets. Diamonds, vermicelli nests, rolls; some perfectly bite-size and others that when bit into, would leave tell-tale pastry crumbs all around our mouths. The sweet taste of the flaky pastry, combined with the nibbly, sticky, baked nut mixture, makes baklava a dessert which is really quite incomparable to any other.
For those who don't know, baklava is a rich and sweet pastry filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with sugar syrup. Its popular all over the Middle-East as well as Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Turkey. For anyone with a sweet-tooth, there isn't really anything not to love!
When I was looking on the internet for a baklava recipe, I was sceptical as to how it would turn out in my hands, as the taste of baklava pastries is so distinct I figured it would be difficult to replicate. I was completely wrong. Not only is baklava really easy to make, but it really tastes just like 'how it's supposed to.' This is the first time I really 'got to know' and work with filo pastry, so for a first-timer I really didn't have any issues!
Now for the technical (but easy) part. Normally baklava is prepared in big pans, which makes quite a lot of pastry, but since I decided to make them individually, you can choose how many you want to make depending on what sort of tray you use - I used a small pan with about seven round cake pop moulds, but I think it would also work with a mini cupcake tray. The idea is to use the shape of the cupcake or cake pop mould and press the filo pastry into each mould to acquire its shape when baked.

In addition, you should only need about a quarter worth of filo pastry of a 270g pack. Remove the filo dough from the freezer and keep overnight in the fridge. Then leave it out on the counter for half hour before using. Open to remove the required sheets, then put the rest of the filo pastry (wrapped tightly in clingfilm) back in the freezer.
Don't separate the layers, but instead cut across them for easy and quick handling, otherwise you will spend a long time cutting out shapes! For each baklava pastry I used 5 layers of 2x2 inch squares, so if you keep this in mind you can decide how many pastries you want to make and how many squares you will need in total.
Simply put, cut across the layers to get your 2x2" squares, and then use five squares per pastry!However keep in mind when preparing the pastry you will need to work quite fast as filo dries out quickly.
Not only does homemade baklava look highly impressive in front of the family, it disappears quickly too! Serve with some mint tea or coffee for a delicious after dinner delight the traditional way!
Mini Baklava Cups
Makes 7-10 pastries

Filo/Phyllo Pastry sheets (see instructions above for defrosting and how much to use)
1 cup pistachios and cashew nuts
2 tblspns butter, melted for brushing
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tblspn lemon
Half tspn cinnamon powder
2 tblspns honey
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Blend the nuts together in a blender - you want them to be a mix of quite finely and roughly chopped and pre-melt your butter. 
Now taking your sheets of filo, and without separating the sheets, cut your squares into 2x2" as directed above. Separate the squares on a work surface and brush each square with some butter. Using 5 squares for each pastry, stack them on top of each other, buttered side up, with each square being placed at a slightly different angle. You should have a flower-like/star shaped layer. Keep on doing this until you have as many pastries as you need. Press each filo stack into your tray mould so that it covers the base and sides, creating a bowl-like shape.
Spoon the nuts into each shape till 3/4 full and put into the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is visibly crispy and very golden brown.
Meanwhile prepare the syrup. In a small pan add the water, sugar, lemon and cinnamon powder, stirring till sugar has dissolved over low heat. Take off the heat and stir in the honey.
Once the pastry is done, leave to cool for about 5 minutes, before pouring a little syrup over each pastry while still warm. Allow to absorb for a minute before pouring a little more syrup so that each pastry is well moistened. Cool fully before serving.

I got featured on Back For Seconds for this post, so thanks to all who have visited and enjoyed my Mini Baklava Cups!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rocky Road Chocolate Cupcakes

I saw a poster the other day which said something along the lines of 'You can't be sad when you're holding a cupcake' - I couldn't agree more.

The cupcake craze has been around for so long now that some people I know would go as far as to say its become overrated. Urm, really?! I am going to dispute this very strongly...! Six odd years since I first remember really being delighted by the sight and taste of a pretty cupcake, I still often get the urge for a simple vanilla cupcake topped with beautiful buttercream frosting, and I'm definitely happy when I'm eating it.
Here in Dubai, together with my sister, I reckon we've been to every cupcake focused store at least twice (if not three, four, five times). If I have friends or family come over to visit, you can bet part of their city tour is going to include a trip to a cupcake store. We even have franchises of Hummingbird and Magnolia's in Dubai! More evidence of my cupcake love? - where I used to work before getting married, there was a (Middle-eastern grown brand)  Kitsch cupcake store right underneath my work place, and most evenings included a necessary trip to purchase a cupcake or two to take home with me.
Maybe its more of a girl thing, but I've loved the concept of cupcakes, and all their multitude of flavours and combinations, for many years now, and I don't see that love ending soon! And that brings me onto these cupcakes...
As I don't often veer towards chocolate cupcakes when given the choice (I think its coz I'd rather eat chocolate cake!), rocky road chocolate cupcakes are better for me. If you're unfamiliar with 'rocky road', its simply a chocolate bar type of dessert made up of chocolate, marshmallows, nuts, dried fruits, coconut flakes and biscuit among other things. When transformed into a cupcake it allows you to play with a multitude of toppings!

I chose hazelnuts here instead of other nuts, as I felt it complemented the nutella perfectly, but feel free to use whichever nuts you want. Want to know how I cheated on the frosting? Instead of using chocolate buttercream I simply topped the cupcakes with a spoon of nutella. This actually works really well with these cupcakes, and I prefer it to chocolate buttercream.

So, pile your chocolate frosting with mini marshmallows, hazelnuts, chocolate chips and drizzled chocolate, and you get a perfectly decadent chocolate cupcake. It will definitely be love at first bite!
Rocky Road Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 9 cupcakes
Half cup (90g) soft butter
Half cup (110g) caster sugar
Half tspn vanilla essence
1 large egg
Half tspn baking powder
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
3 tblspns cocoa powder
4 tblspns milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla essence mixing well. Slowly sift the flour, baking and cocoa powders into the mixture incorporating well and finally add the milk. Divide equally into cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes for normal sized cupcakes.  Leave to cool before adding the toppings.
For the topping:
Half cup chopped hazelnuts
Half cup mini marshmallows
Half cup chocolate and white chocolate chips
Melted Chocolate for drizzling
Mix the hazelnuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips together in a medium bowl. Spoon a tablespoon of nutella onto each cupcake. Pile the rocky road mixture on top and drizzle the melted chocolate over with a teaspoon. Keep in the fridge for about three minutes to let the chocolate set before serving.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Chip Coconut Pancakes

Allow me to introduce to you my new favourite pancake ever.

Chocolate and coconut together in food is a fail-proof pairing, not to mention a favourite of mine. Added to this pancake recipe, you get a fantastically light and fluffy pancake, with a combination of flavours that leaves you wanting more than just the one or two!

There are only two teaspoons of sugar in the whole batter, yet the sweet shredded coconut and chocolate chips add just the right amount of sweetness, so they are still perfect to have for breakfast.
Eat warm with agave syrup or honey, for a different alternative to maple syrup.
And yes I did eat the full pancake stack post-photography!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Pancakes

Makes 10 mini panacakes

1 cup self-raising flour
2 tspns caster sugar
1/2 tspn baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg, seperated
2/3 cup milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
3 tblspns sweetened shredded coconut
Vegetbale oil, for cooking
Agave syrup, to serve

Combine the flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the egg yolk with the milk and vanilla, then whisk into the flour mixture to form a smooth batter. Using a blender or seperate bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks from, and then fold this carefully into the batter along with the chocolate chips and shredded coconut. Heat a non-stick frying pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and drop a spoonful of the batter into the pan. Flip the pancake once you see bubbles forming, and cook both sides evenly. Continue until all the batter has been used, transferring pancakes to a warm plate. Serve with a drizzle of agave syrup.
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