Friends who give a fig..

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake and Figs

(Chocolate yoghurt cake with sticky caramel figs)

A few days ago, a high school friend sent me an email. She was out of town, her fig tree was heavy with fruit, and did I want to go pick some before the birds got to them? It took me all of two seconds to say, heck yes. I mean, free fruit.. who (except the sugar deniers) would say no? Plus, I happen to also own a potted fig tree and it has all of two leaves left hanging for dear life on a singular branch. Sometimes I feel that branch is pointing accusingly at me for not being a better amateur gardener. Naturally, I wanted to see this bountiful tree of hers.

So now I have a small basket of doesn’t-get-fresher-than-this figs and have been experimenting with different ways of using them. A few were sliced, rolled in sugar, kissed with a blow torch, and served with a sort of Eton Mess. If you don’t have a blow torch because somehow Amelie and the whole creme brulee craze remains a complete mystery to you, then here’s another amazing way to treat figs : Melt a few spoonfuls of sugar in a sauce pan and heat to make a golden caramel. Toss in fig halves, stir gently to coat them in the caramel, then deglaze with Banyuls or balsamic vinegar to form a bit of a sauce. The whole process takes just a few minutes and the end result is sweet and slightly sour figs you can spoon over ice-cream, or serve with a simple chocolate cake such as this one.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake with Figs

This chocolate cake is a take on Tartine’s devil’s food cake, made with yoghurt instead of buttermilk. It’s one of my favourites because it has the depth of flavour of a chocolate fudge cake without being dense or stodgy.

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake :

115g unsalted butter, softened
235g caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs
100g Greek yoghurt
60g milk
125g plain flour
30g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
60g cocoa powder

Grease and line a 9″ round baking tin. Preheat the oven to 175’C.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Combine the yoghurt and milk and add this to the butter mixture. Sift in the flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder and fold to incorporate. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before covering with ganache or serve simply dusted with icing sugar and eaten with a generous scoop of Greek yoghurt.

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Chocolate Krantz Cake

(Burnt chocolate and caramel custard with mini chocolate Krantz cake)

Every once in awhile, an exceptional recipe comes along and fairly quickly without much thought, I find myself returning to it more than twice in a single week. This very splendid chocolate Krantz cake from Tara’s blog, which comes by way of Ottolenghi, is one such recipe. It produces two memorable loaves of sweet yeasted cake that are utterly blissful when eaten warm and that also manage to stay moist and just as pleasing several days later.

The first time I made it, I foolishly halved the recipe. Big mistake. The entire loaf disappeared within two days, leaving me craving for more. The second time round, I made a full batch, flavouring the dough with candied orange and cardamom and also reducing the sugar content by a few tablespoons. Half the dough was converted into a tray of mini loaves, for tearing and dipping into little cups of burnt chocolate custard.

Anyway, you know the drill. If you only have time and the inclination to bake one thing this week, please let it be chocolate Krantz cake. Get the recipe from Tara’s blog. If you want to gild the lily, the recipe for the chocolate custards are below.

Burnt chocolate caramel custards :
(makes 4; adapted from a recipe from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman)

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup cream, warmed
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
70g bittersweet chocolate, melted
3 egg yolks
generous pinch of sea salt

plus extra caster sugar for caramelising the finished product

Melt the 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium sized pot, then increase the heat and cook until golden brown, stirring with a heat-proof spatula. When the sugar has caramelised, turn down the heat and carefully whisk in the cream (the caramel will splutter), followed by the milk and salt. Continue cooking until the caramel has dissolved, then remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the yolks with the melted chocolate, then whisk in the warm caramel cream. Strain the custard into a jug, and divide the mixture between 4 ramekins (I used small cups, as shown in the first picture). Bake covered loosely with foil in a bain marie in a preheated 155’C oven for about 40 minutes until the custards are just set. Chill overnight before caramelising with a generous sprinkle of caster sugar and a blow torch.

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Hello Summer Chocolate Sorbet

Hello beautiful Sydney beaches
and sand getting into impossible places
and the impossibility of finding a spot to park your car
before joining the thirty minute queue at the fish and chip shop
for soggy snacks scooped from an overloaded fryer.

Hello crayon yellow peaches, pineapples, blush cherries,
ruby red raspberries, black plums, zebra tomatoes
and those things in Sydney that often look like apricots
but rarely taste like one

and sock tans and brown arms
from running under the sun in your new pair of gym shorts
that replaced the ones with a big rip
right where two cheeks would meet.

Hello mango cheeks, preservative free sausages, watermelon rind pickles,
and 42’C days that make you long for breakfast ice-cream.

Hello Summer
I think I love you sometimes.

Chocolate Sorbet :

300g water
70g sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
60g 70% dark chocolate buttons
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g milk

In a medium pot, whisk together the cocoa, water, sugar and honey. Bring to boil, cook for 1-2 minutes then remove from heat. Whisk in the chocolate buttons, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Strain. Allow to chill overnight before churning. Eat and make often.

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