Peanut, Chocolate and Caramel Baklava

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I’ve been wanting to try to make baklava for a while – I love it. However, I know that my family are not overly keen, they find it to sickly and sweet.

Anyway, the other day i had some filo pastry left over from dinner and decided some experimentation was in order. I am the biggest peanut and chocolate fan, whether it be snickers, peanut butter m and ms, the peanut kitkat, I love them all.

I decided that I would try to incorporate this into a baklava. I looked up a recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website and used it as the basis for my version.

A traditional baklava is normally made by baking chopped nuts (often pistachios) in between layers of filo pastry and then pouring a honey/sugar syrup over the top to make it stick together.
I decided that instead of pistachios I was going to put a mixture of chopped roasted peanuts and chocolate. Instead of using a honey syrup, which I thought might be a bit too floral for the peanut/chocolate combination, I made a runny caramel and used this to sandwich it all together.

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My recipe was as follows:

1x 270g pack filo pastry (normally 6 sheets)
150g roasted unsalted peanuts
50g chocolate, chopped
100g butter, melted

For the caramel:
250g Sugar
125ml mixture of cream and milk
50g butter

First, to make the caramel:
Melt the sugar in a heavy based saucepan
When it is melted and golden brown in colour, remove off the heat and stir in the butter
Add the cream/milk mixture slowly, beating after each addition.
Set the caramel aside to cool.

Then make the baklava:
Put the nuts into a food processor and whiz them until coarsely chopped then mix in the chocolate pieces
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Cut the 6 sheets of pastry in half so you have 12 pieces
Find a tin roughly the same shape as your pastry pieces and butter it with some of the melted butter
Lay a layer of filo pastry into the tin and then brush it with melted butter
Add another layer of filo pastry onto the first one and butter it again
Repeat this until you have four layers of filo

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Sprinkle half the peanut and chocolate mix over the fourth layer of filo pastry

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Repeat the layers of filo pastry and butter on top of the peanut mixture so that you have another four
Sprinkle over the remaining peanut and chocolate and then layer up the remaining four pieces of filo
Make sure you brush the top layer with butter
Cut the baklava into pieces before you bake it. Make sure that you cut all the way through to the bottom.

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Bake at 170 degrees for 30 mins or until golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, check on your cooled caramel. If it is incredibly thick then thin it with some milk. It needs to be of a syrupy consistency that can be spooned over the baklava and seep down to the bottom.

When the baklava is cooked pour/spoon over half of the caramel, let it rest for five minutes then spoon over the other half.
When the baklava is completely cool you can take it out of the tin and tuck in!

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Chocolate and…

I came back from university a few weeks ago and as soon as I got home I was inundated with messages from friends about how they really wanted to come round and make cake after spending all term drooling over the pictures I have been posting on Facebook (oh the joys of social networking, I have been so cruel tantalising people :p ).

So, I invited them round this weekend to make our famous (or will be one day, fingers crossed) cupcakes. The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we went on a virtuous walk first in an effort to counteract the effect that the vast quantity of cake might otherwise have had…

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I decided that we were not just going to make any old vanilla, chocolate or other such ordinary cupcakes so decided on the theme Chocolate and… The idea was that we would make a few combinations of chocolate with something else, some were traditional, others – not so much. After much deliberation and discussion about what would work best (you could tell we were students, we almost got the mind maps out), we decided on three combinations: Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Caramel and lastly, Chocolate and Chilli.

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For all the cupcakes we used the Basic Cupcake recipe as a base and added to it.

For the Peanut Butter Cupcakes we added two tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter to the mixture. Both Ruth and I are very keen on having fillings inside the cupcakes so I decided that they would have to feature somewhere in the recipes. In order to make the Peanut Butter Cupcakes have some chocolate element that wasn’t just the buttercream, we filled them with a chocolate fudge icing. I taught my friends how to scoop out the middle of the cupcakes as we did on for the Cocktail ones so that they could be filled with a nice amount of chocolatey goodness.

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The filling we used was a scaled down version of Mary Berry’s Chocolate Fudge Icing, we did less than half but if you have too much, it is delicious warmed up as a chocolate sauce on fruit (especially strawberries) or alternatively you can just lick out the pan! If you are short on time, Betty Crocker’s Fudge Icing in a pot is a good alternative although rather stiff so you may need to warm it slightly to make it easier to fill the cupcake.

For the Caramel Cupcakes we added two tablespoons of Cocoa Powder to the Basic Cupcake Recipe and filled them with a beautiful salted caramel bought all the way back from Brittany by Ruth. As I am fully aware, this is not something that is normally in everyone’s store cupboard but there are plenty of alternatives out there. If you are really adventurous you can try making it yourself, it is difficult but perfectly achievable. However you will save yourself a lot of stressful batches of burnt caramel (I speak from experience) if you buy tinned caramel (such as Carnations) and add salt to it if you desire.

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Now for the more unusual Chocolate and Chilli Cupcakes. We did the same as for the caramel ones and added 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to the Basic Cupcake recipe, however, we also added a few drops of Tabasco sauce. After trying the batter, the spiciness did not hit us so we added quite a lot more. To my surprise, the spice still didn’t really come through, I think it must be because there is so much dairy in a cake batter that it acts as a coolant. We decided to change tactic and started adding chilli powder, I would advise doing this bit by bit and keep tasting the batter (what a shame) as everyone’s chilli powder is different. Ours was hot so we probably didn’t use as much as if it had been a milder one. After deciding that the batter was sufficiently spicy, I added a few extra shakes for good luck (I was convinced that cooking would reduce the chilli kick) and whacked them in the oven.

To ice, we used a chocolate buttercream on them all so that they looked uniform. We made this by replacing 50g of the icing sugar from the Basic Buttercream recipe with cocoa powder.

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For the chilli cupcakes, we cut up half a fresh chilli and added it to the buttercream, just for good luck.

We all enjoyed piping the cupcakes, i still have much improving to do but did manage to hand out a few tips and the feedback from my friends was all good.

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The chilli cupcakes, definitely did have a kick and the flavour was not cooked out as I expected them to be. My mum and sister thought they were delicious as did the girls.

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Other potential ideas could be chocolate and coffee, chocolate and orange, chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and mint, chocolate and ginger…. experiment away!!!

Lizzy 🙂

Strawberry and Chocolate Cake

Yesterday I had my first solo mahoosive cake making session. (Obviously I do bake regularly but not quite to this extent…)

It was our summer ball on Tuesday and after getting into bed at 7am following a well-deserved hog roast and making it to the survivor’s photo, I decided there was not much I could do with my day apart from baking and eating some form of hangover cake.

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Jubilee Strawberries have launched a competition in which you have to design and make a strawberry cake. What better way to spend a quiet day in? (Or perhaps afternoon seeing as i did, admittedly, wake up at 2pm… standard student life). I decided to base mine around the classic, chocolate and strawberry combination.

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To begin I made a standard Chocolate Sponge using the BBC Easy Chocolate Sponge recipe. I halved the recipe to make just one. It really was as it said – easy. Unfortunately, my budget cake tins from Wilkinson were nearly not up to the job. Although cake tins with a removable base are a great invention, they only work if they are completely sealed. Note how on instruction 3 it says “The cake mixture will now be very liquid”, well that is completely true. So liquid in fact that it started to flow right out of the bottom of the tin and make a nice mini cake on the bottom of the oven floor. However, the majority of the cake did stay in the tin but I would recommend, if you have the same problem, putting a baking tray on the oven floor to catch any drips. It makes cleaning much easier.

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While the chocolate sponge was cooking, I whipped together a classic Victoria sponge. Again I used a BBC recipe (it is one of my favourite sites and I can while away hours supposed to be spent writing essays, researching the next cake to bake or meal for my housemates!) To the sponge mix I added about 2 handfuls of chopped strawberries that I tossed in flour and some red food colouring (although next time I would add more). If you don’t have fresh strawberries, you could try adding a few tablespoons of strawberry jam, as much as you can without the mixture becoming too runny or sweet. I made the full quantity of this cake and divided it between two tins.

While all this was in the oven, I set about on some decorations.

First I made a chocolate ganache:
Boil 200ml of Double Cream and then pour on top of 200 grams of chopped/broken up chocolate (I used a mixture of milk and dark).
I also dipped 15 strawberries in milk, white and dark chocolate to adorn the top of the cake when it was finally assembled.

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The chocolate ganache was rather runny so I put it in the fridge. While it did get stiffer, I was not convinced it would stick to the cake very well and while it might have eventually thickened, I got impatient and decided to whip it. I did this with an electric whisk as you would when whipping cream for a pavlova (or any dessert). This turned out to be an excellent idea because it increased in volume (I wasn’t actually sure I had enough…) and was spreadable. My only disappointment was that it lightened in colour slightly so was no longer shiny and dark. However, after licking out the bowl, my housemates can testify that it still tasted delicious!!

To assemble the cake I decided to sandwich the chocolate layer between the two strawberry ones. In between the layers, I spread on strawberry jam and sliced up the rest of the strawberries from the punnet I had bought and put them in between as well.

I then covered the cake in the ganache which had increased so much in volume that I actually had some left over and was able to pipe some flowers round the edge (I was rather proud of them – my piping skills are improving slowly but surely, Ruth’s lessons are paying off!).

I piled the chocolate covered strawberries on top and grated over a variety of milk, dark and white chocolate for the finishing touch.

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The cake was definitely appreciated by my housemates as we snuggled down in front of Made in Chelsea with a cup of coffee. Hopefully I will be able to send a piece off to Ruth (via her courier/husband) so she can try it too.

I shall let you all know how it gets on in the competition although I have to admit there are some quite scary cakes among the other entries!!
As our saying goes: Watch this space!

Lizzy 🙂

P.S. The apron was a birthday present from a friend – Ruth and Anna are both quite jealous, we may have to all get matching ones!!