Gypsy and the Botanist

Month: December, 2014

Spicy ginger, apple and dark chocolate bundt cake.

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This was inspired by a cake Violet Cakes’ Claire Ptak recently made (cocoa and apple). That flavour combination was a big part of my childhood, often interlaced in the Eastern European staple of gingerbread. And to this day, the aroma of apples, ginger and cinnamon takes me back to my childhood: afternoon teas, filled with coffee and variations of gingerbread cakes, and Polish chatter.

 

Ingredients

200g good quality dark chocolate

200g mixed dried fruit (I used currants, sultanas, apricots and prunes)

1 cup of whisky

1 lemon, juice and zest

2 whole star anise

3 green apples

1 large knob of fresh ginger

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g brown sugar

4 eggs

200g plain flour, sifted

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

3 tbs of good quality cocoa

1 tsp cinnamon, ground

1 tsp nutmeg, ground

A sprinkle of cloves, ground

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Dark chocolate ganache glaze

200g good quality dark chocolate

25g unsalted butter, cubed

200ml fresh cream

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, and set aside to cool.

In a small pan, simmer the dried fruit, whisky and lemon juice and zest, for about 10 minutes. Continuously stir to make sure it doesn’t burn. Set aside to cool.

Grate the apples and ginger, and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar, for approximately 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On a low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated. Beat in the bicarbonate of soda, salt, and half of the flour, until incorporated. Then beat in the melted chocolate, followed by the apples and ginger, the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and then the dried fruit mixture. Beat in the cocoa and the remaining flour.

Pour the mixture into a bundt cake baking tray, and bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20-30 minutes, then transfer onto a wire wrack to cool completely.

To make the dark chocolate ganache glaze, in a double boiler, gently heat the fresh cream, until it starts to lightly simmer, but don’t allow it to boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the dark chocolate and butter, continuously stirring until all melted and incorporated. Place it back on the heat for a minute or two if more heat is needed, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t split. Set aside to cool.

Once the bundt cake has completely cooled, gently drizzle the dark chocolate glaze over, and allow to pour down the sides. To decorate, sprinkle some raw cacao nibs, some dried apple crisps, and edible flower petals (I used some salvia).

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Cheese crackers: Garlic and rosemary / Truffle, parmesan and black pepper

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It may perhaps be surprising for some, but I actually don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Given the choice of chocolate, or chips… Chips always win. My favourite foods? Cheese and olives. My rosemary has been thriving and this reminded me of a recipe I accidentally made a couple of years ago with leftover pizza dough… I decided to roll it out super fine, sprinkle it with some seasonings… and left to cool completely, this leftover dough made a tasty cheese cracker. Here, I’ve made two kinds of crackers: the first was rosemary and garlic, and the second was truffle, parmesan and cracked black pepper.

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Ingredients (Makes approximately 28 long crackers)

200g white bread flour (Tipo “00” flour)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp caster sugar

1 7g sachet of dried yeast

1 cup of warm water

1 tbs good quality olive oil

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Rosemary and garlic

Good quality olive oil

2 cloves of crushed fresh garlic

Fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Sea salt

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Truffle, parmesan and black pepper

Truffle oil

Finely grated parmesan cheese

Freshly ground cracked black pepper

Sea salt

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil with the warm water in a jug, and leave in a warm place for approximately 10-20 minutes, until the yeast is activated. Sift the flour into a large bowl, and create a well in the middle. Pour the yeast mixture into the middle, and using a wooden spoon, slowly stir the flour in, until it all comes together. The mixture should be sticky. If it’s too hard, add some more warm water.

Once it is combined, take the dough to a clean surface dusted with flour, and knead until the dough feels soft, and “springy”, like an elastic. Once you have kneaded the dough, place it in a large bowl, and cover with a damp cloth, and leave in a warm place for about an hour. The dough will then expand in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl, and lightly knead it again. In batches, break off a handful of the dough, and with a rolling pin, on a flour dusted surface, roll out the dough until very thin (the thinner you roll the dough, the crispier the cracker). Place this on a flour dusted baking tray (I prefer to use pizza stones to ensure it’s extra crispy), and season accordingly.  For the rosemary and garlic variation, rub some olive oil into the rolled dough, followed by some crushed garlic.  Sprinkle with the fresh rosemary and some sea salt. For the truffle, parmesan and black pepper variation, rub some truffle oil into the rolled dough, and then lightly sprinkle some parmesan, followed by the black pepper and a touch of sea salt.

Bake the rolled and seasoned dough in batches, for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for about 10 minutes, and then move to a cooling wrack to cool completely.

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Lemon, thyme and white chocolate cookies.

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Keeping with the festive theme… The traditional dried fruits and heady heart-warming spices, while decadent and delicious, are also traditional of cold winter days.  With the Australian summer christmas, I wanted something fresh and light.  Winter spices are made to dance with zingy citrus peel.  Which brings me to these cookies… zingy lemon is the star here.  And I’ve also added white chocolate for some creamy sweetness.  And finally, I wanted to balance these flavours with some earthy thyme.

 

Ingredients (Makes 30)

250g unsalted butter, softened

230g brown sugar

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

A pinch of salt

450g plain flour, sifted

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 lemons, juice and zest

A handful of thyme leaves

220g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Sea salt

Macadamia nuts, crushed

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a small saucepan, simmer the lemon juice and zest with the thyme, for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and pinch of salt.

Cream the butter and sugar for approximately 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating on a low speed, until incorporated. Still on a low speed, mix through half of the flour mixture until incorporated. Then add the lemon and thyme mixture, and then the remaining flour mixture. Once this is incorporated, stir through the chopped up chocolate.

On a greased and lined baking tray, break off pieces of the dough, and form them into balls about the size of golf balls. Place these balls on the baking tray, about 5cm apart. Sprinkle each ball with sea salt and the crushed macadamias. Bake in batches for approximately 10 minutes. Then press each cookie flat with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the trays for 10-15 minutes, and then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely.

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Double dark chocolate and mint cookies.

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So the holiday season is here, and I wanted to make something festive to evoke christmas.  I saw some candy canes, and their minty sweetness inspired this recipe.  So mint… and chocolate.  One of my favourite childhood flavour combinations, which I’ve taken to this cookie today.  I’ve based this recipe on 70% dark chocolate, sweet and slightly bitter, and super rich, which is balanced by the light freshness of mint.

 

Ingredients (Makes 30)

250g unsalted butter, softened

230g brown sugar

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

A pinch of salt

450g plain flour, sifted

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tbsp good quality dutch cocoa

220g 70% good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped

A large handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of full-cream milk

6 drops of mint oil

Sea salt

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a small saucepan, steep the fresh mint in the milk, by simmering over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure to continuously stir so it doesn’t burn.  Set aside to cool.

Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, pinch of salt, and cocoa.

Cream the butter and sugar for approximately 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating on a low speed, until incorporated. Add of the half the drops of mint oil. Still on a low speed, mix through half of the flour mixture until incorporated. Then add the mint leaf mixture, and the rest of the mint oil drops. Once this is incorporated, add the remaining flour mixture, and then stir through the chopped up chocolate.

On a greased and lined baking tray, break off pieces of the dough, and form them into balls about the size of golf balls. Place these balls on the baking tray, about 5cm apart. Sprinkle each ball with sea salt. Bake in batches for approximately 10 minutes. Then press each cookie flat with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the trays for 10-15 minutes, and then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely.

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