Thursday, February 26, 2015

Easy Chocolate Slab Cake

This recipe was given to me, after lots of begging, by a friend of my daughter in law's. When I first tasted it, I had warmed it in the microwave and served with some cream. It tasted exactly like those Chocolate Mud Cakes from the supermarket, but not as sweet. We secretly love those cakes. I thought it must have been a packet cake because the consistency was so perfect!
When converting this to the Thermomix, I have reduced the sugar quantity from the original recipe.

Easy Chocolate Slab Cake
The Bush Gourmand

Preheat oven to 150 FF or 160 non FF.
Prepare small baking tin by greasing and lining base.
Place in Thermie:

280g butter, chopped
220g water
30g cocoa

Melt 3 minutes/55/speed 1, gradually increase to speed 2.5 as it melts.

250g sugar
280g  SR flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2 tsp vanilla
120g buttermilk (If no buttermilk, place 1/2 tsp vinegar into a half cup measure. Fill with milk)

Mix on speed 3 for 15 seconds. Scrape down.
Increase speed to 4 and add:

2 eggs, one at a time

Mix for a few seconds to make sure all is incorporated. 
Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 45 minutes. Leave in tin to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.
Ice with ganache, plain chocolate or buttercream icing.
I generally leave it plain, cut into squares and freeze the squares.
Straight out of the freezer into the microwave for 30 seconds.
Serve with cream, ice cream, ganache and berry coulis. People love it!

Special Sauce

This is a recipe normally known as Comeback Sauce. It is so named for it's popularity as a dipping sauce for crumbed chicken, fish or other seafood. It originated in southern Mississippi, the recipe being credited to a Greek restaurant there.

I call it Special Sauce, as it's one of those yummy special sauces that you can make all your own with a few tweaks.

It's not quite Thousand Island Dressing, nor Seafood Sauce, but stands on it's own. I love it with smoked salmon and avocado on shredded lettuce. My son-in-law goes through this stuff in days, so I have to make it regularly.

Special Sauce
The Bush Gourmand

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup OO
1/4 cup chilli sauce - I sometimes use Sweet Chilli Sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
Juice of 1 lemon

Blend and bottle. Let the ingredients marry a while before using as a sauce for fish, chicken etc.

I made a double batch today in the Thermomix and tweaked it a bit. Many of my ingredients were home made, adding an extra 'special' to this Special Sauce. I've added guar gum to thicken it a little. This is totally optional. You may prefer to use agar agar or gelatine. Either way, dissolve these in liquid first.

Special Sauce
The Bush Gourmand

1/2 tsp guar gum
90g light OO or macadamia oil
300g Mayonnaise
130g Tomato sauce
140g Chilli sauce (half Chilli and half Sweet Chillli)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp paprika
Juice of 2 lemons

Measure out the olive oil in the Thermomix and add the guar gum, avoiding the blades. Blend for 5 seconds on speed 6. Add remaining ingredients and blend again on speed 6 for 10 seconds.
Bottle and label.

Store in the fridge.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mars Bar Chocolate Cake

When my son became engaged to our lovely daughter in law, I offered to make the wedding cakes. Looking back, I obviously didn't realise the enormity of that offer!

I began making chocolate cakes in November. it wasn't until my DIL's Hen's Party that I discovered THE recipe for superb chocolate cake. Her friend had made one for the event. I scrounged the recipe (thanks Mel!!) and started experimenting. The style of the cake was in a tier, a square cake on top and small square cakes in a line on the subsequent tiers. All white with black ribbon tied in a bow. The remainder of the cakes were to be cup cakes. So, I needed two chocolate cake recipes.

Since the cakes were to be covered in white fondant (another story, thank you sisters for your help), the cake needed to be firm. Mel's recipe was delicious, but too soft to be covered in fondant and too liquid for cupcakes, but the method was easy, so I looked for a cake with a similar method. I'm not a fan of mudcake, so didn't want it to be that firm. I came across a recipe on the Thermomix Recipe Community for Mars Bar Mudcake. It turned out to be the perfect consistency and was super delicious. I made a few changes, so I think I can now call it my own.

The cupcakes used a different recipe, one from called Chocolate Bimby Cake. I adapted this one also by adding some melted dark chocolate and coffee to make it richer.

Enough waffling, here's the recipe for the Mars Bar Chocolate Cake.

Mars Bar Chocolate Cake

140g dark chocolate
1 - 3 x Mars Bars (53g size)
250g butter
1 Tbsp coffee powder
200g water

Preheat oven to 150c (fan forced). Grease and line small baking dish. 

Place broken up chocolate and Mars Bars, cubed butter, coffee, sugar and water into Thermomix bowl and cook 6 minutes/560/speed 1, increasing to speed 3 as it all begins to melt.

150 grams white sugar 
350 grams SR flour 
40 grams cocoa
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 grams buttermilk (To make add 1 tsp of white vinegar to 150g milk. Let for 5 minutes. Stir before using.

Add to bowl and mix for around 45 seconds to a minute, starting on speed 3 and moving to speed 5 to incorporate. Scrape down occasionally.

4 eggs - room temp

Have the blades running on speed 4, add the eggs one at a time. Mix for 1 min on speed 3.
Scrape sides down. Mix again for 30 seconds, speed 4.
Pour mixture into prepared pan. 
Bake for around  1 1/4  hours or so, depending on your oven.

Leave in tin to cool a little, then turn on to a wire rack. Ice with ganache or split in half and place jam in the middle and whipped cream on top. Can also be served warm as a dessert. Pour over warmed ganache, raspberry coulis and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

I have so much chocolate cake in my freezer, it should last us a few months! The Wedding Cakes turn out well, as long as you didn't look too closely and notice the chocolate cake crumbs on the white fondant!!

Thanks to Mel for the Best Ever Chocolate Cake recipe which helped me to adapt this recipe and thanks to Nicole Carey for the original Mars Bar Mudcake recipe.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sugar Substitutes

I've previously written a bit about sugar and it's effects on our bodies (see Sugar, Sweet Poison and Sugar, Sweet Poison II) and now I'd like to muse on the subject of sugar substitutes.

The options vary and include 'natural' sweeteners brown rice syrup, agave nectar, coconut nectar, honey, maple syrup, Medjool dates and sugar lookalikes Xylitol, Monkfruit and Stevia. Then there are the artificial sweetening products such as saccharine, sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Nutrisweet, Equal).

Of the 'natural' sweeteners, the only totally natural ones are dates, maple syrup and honey. Stevia and Monkfruit are both natural products, however, all the monkfruit products that I've seen contain bulking agents in the form of either maltose or dextrose. Some stevia products will also contain these ingredients to make the product appear more like sugar.

 In this post, I'll be looking at what are generally considered the more natural substitutes and will do a separate post on the sugar lookalikes and artificial sweeteners.
Brown Rice Syrup
This is a highly processed product made by exposing cooked brown rice to enzymes that break down the starch to simple sugars. Then it's filtered to remove any impurities. What is left is a thick syrup which is basically glucose. It's made up of Maltotriose (52%) Maltose (45%) and Glucose (3%).
Both Maltotriose and Maltose are simply glucose, three molecules of glucose for Maltotriose and two for Maltose. So, by the time it reaches your intestine, it's 100% glucose and is rapidly taken up by the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. The production process means there are virtually no nutrients from the brown rice actually left in the syrup, so it has no nutritional value, despite what the Health Food industry says.

Agave "Nectar"
Somewhat a misleading name for this popular sweetener, as it isn't made from the agave leaf juice, but from the starchy root bulb of the agave plant. It is made the same way as High Fructose Corn Syrup, a highly chemical process involving the use of caustic acids, enzymes, clarifiers and filtration chemicals. The end product is about 70% fructose, higher than HF corn syrup, which comes in at 55%. As explained in my previous article on sugar, fructose is low GI, processes by the liver. Due to the fact that there is no fibre or anything of nutritious value in the agave, it's immediately stored as triglycerides. Remember, that the liver can only store so much triglyceride and the rest is converted into fat deposits through out the body. Fructose also inhibits leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone that tells your body you have had enough to eat. So, bottom line, stay away from this stuff.

Coconut Nectar
Basically, coconut nectar is the same as coconut sugar.  (See Sugar, Sweet Poison II) It's the syrup that hasn't been boiled down to make the crystals. Low GI, yes, but high fructose, so okay, but not fantastic in large quantities.

Honey is often used as a natural alternative to sugar in food preparation and cooking where a liquid can be used. It contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose. In various studies, honey did not raise blood sugar as much as regular sugar and it also lowered triglycerides, LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol and raised HDL, the 'good' cholesterol.
Honey is also an antioxidant and is often used as a topical antiseptic. The darker the honey, the more beneficial it is as an antioxidant. One of the best is Jarrah honey. Jarrah honey is unique to Western Australia and is seen as one of the best honeys for beating bacteria, so much so that trials are underway to use it to beat the hospital superbug, MRSA
Honey is still sugar, though a more nutritious version and can be used as a sweetener for occasional treats as part of a healthy diet.

Maple Syrup
A natural product made by boiling the sap of a certain type of maple tree, maple syrup contains a host of naturally occurring minerals including high levels of manganese as well as zinc ( 28% of RDA in 100grams), thiamine, potassium and calcium.  A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007, showed that the polyphenols in maple syrup stimulated insulin release through pancreatic cells, indicating benefits for diabetes sufferers. Studies also found compounds in maple syrup that had anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Maple syrup contains less fructose than honey, so is a better option.
B Grade maple syrup is considered to be the best, funnily enough. It's taken from the tree later in the year and contains more nutrients. Again, like honey, the darker, the better.
As with Medjool dates, maple syrup is a great alternative to sugar in a liquid form, but cost may be a prohibitive factor in it's widespread use in the home kitchen.

Medjool Dates
These deliciously sweet and caramel flavoured fruits come from a date palm originating in Morocco, but grown in many desert regions now. They pack a fairly hefty calorific punch, - 3 dates is around 200 calories. But they also contain fibre, that helps to slow down the absorption of the sugars in the dates. Dates also contain a wide variety of minerals, including copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Vitamins include all the B vitamins and carotenes.
So, they would seem a good option to replace sugar in the diet. However, their use is limited due to the colour and texture of the dates. They're great blended with nuts and other ingredients to make protein balls or pie bases and can be added to cakes and biscuits for added sweetness, but I don't imagine anyone will be popping half a date into their cup of tea in the morning. They could be used in chutneys and relishes to reduce the sugar content and, of course, are a defining ingredient in Moroccan tagines. The price of Medjool dates is also a limiting factor in their use as a sugar substitute.

The bottom line?

Honey, Medjool dates and maple syrup are my choices as sugar substitutes. When using honey or maple syrup in your recipes, reduce the amount of liquid to compensate. Cakes will be also be darker when using honey as a sweetener.
Dates can be substituted to an extent in cooking, but only in certain recipes. Experiment and google for ideas. I'll include some recipes on the blog soon.

Thanks for reading.


Nectarine Relish

We feel very blessed to have a beautiful place in Albany where we can rest and recuperate from life on the farm. It came with a fabulous small chook run with fruit trees, all covered in net. There are a couple of Meyer lemons, a mandarin, two apples and a nectarine tree. The nectarine tree is brimming with beautiful blushing nectarines. In past years, the fruit has been riddled with fruit fly, but this summer was very dry, so there is very little evidence in the fruit this season.

So, what to do with heaps of nectarines other than scarfing them down? Nectarine relish came to mind. I prefer a lighter coloured relish over a chutney.This relish is delicious and marries well with pork, ham or chicken. I think it would be fabulous with a traditional French terrine. (Might just have to pop down to Gourmandise & Co on Stirling Terrace to buy some and try that combination out.)

Anyway, enough rambling, here's the recipe, Thermomix, of course:

Nectarine Relish
The Bush Gourmand

2 cloves garlic peeled
Chop on speed 5 for a few seconds. Add:
1 large red onion, sliced, then slices cut into three
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Saute 3 minutes/speed 2/100.

8 or 9 nectarines, cut into chunks
60g Rapadura sugar
40g Apple Cider Vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt

Cook on Reverse/Speed 1/100 for 15 minutes. 
Mix together;

2 heaped Tbsp cornflour with a little water to make a slurry.
Add to mixture and cook on Reverse/Speed 1/100 for 2 minutes.

Pour into hot sterilised jars. Place lids on tightly and turn upside down for ten minutes or so. This seals the jars. Once opened, keep in the fridge.