Chocolate Speculoos Tart

(Chocolate speculoos tart)

Ever since we moved into an apartment together and I insisted on buying the smallest fridge-freezer in the entire kitchen appliance store as some sort of bizarre money-saving measure, I’ve been regretting winning the argument. (I’m convinced there’s a future blog post just waiting to be written on the subject of the strange arguments he lets me win, even when he knows I’m wrong).

Turns out, there’s no such thing as a fridge or freezer that’s too big. Not when you can stuff it with leftover bits of pastry, excess cookie dough and more than one flavour of ice-cream. Or perhaps it’s a mixed blessing that I had to evict an unbaked tart case from the freezer the other day, to make room for a bag of green chillies and a few wilting stalks of lemongrass.

Our fast and easy dessert that evening was this tart, filled with a mixture of pantry ingredients. Speculoos is one of my favourite cookies that I put in almost anything I can get away with. If you don’t have any, try the same recipe with gingersnaps or chocolate cookies. I’m thinking a Tim Tam version of this tart might have to be the next thing I tackle on my to-bake list.

Now if only there was another spare tart case in the freezer that needed to be used..

Chocolate Speculoos Tart :

125g butter
100g rapadura sugar or natural cane sugar
2 medium eggs
20g cocoa powder
125g speculoos, crushed or blitzed in the food processor
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
75g dark chocolate chips

1 x 23cm tart tin lined with sweet shortcrust pastry, unbaked

Preheat the oven to 170’C.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Fold in the speculoos crumbs, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt, followed by the chocolate chips. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the shortcrust pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack before removing the tart from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature with cinnamon whipped cream, sweetened yogurt or vanilla ice-cream.

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Brandied cherry snacking cake

(Brandied cherry snacking cake)

Yesterday I visited a good friend whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. Her mother wanted to know when I was going to start having children. I could almost hear my biological clock ticking while she eyeballed me.

Over Christmas, everyone wanted to know what I was planning to do for work in 2012, as though my answer of ‘being on holiday’ was not an option.

Last week I received a belated Christmas card from a relative, addressed to us as Mr. and Mrs. It reminded me of various aunts who had long ago launched themselves on a now abandoned quest to get me into a white gown and a church.

Undeniably, everyone means well, but a part of me can’t help the exasperation from bubbling up. Why in this day and age, are we still made to feel as though we’re failing in the game of life if we haven’t advanced to the next expected stage. Don’t pity me the unfulfilled potential of my child bearing hips or my barren ring fingers. I just want to make cake and be happy.

To call this a snacking cake almost gives anyone license to attack it at any given time of the day. Even breakfast. Or that curious hour just before bedtime when it seems too late to have something substantial but not that late that you can’t conceivably fit in a quick bite and one last cup of tea. As it happens, true to its name, I found myself coming back continuously to trim little slivers off this cake a day after I’d made it. If you can’t please your relatives, let them eat cake.

Brandied cherry snacking cake :
(adapted from a recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang)

170g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (1 1/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230g (1 3/4 cup) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
220g (1 1/2 cups) small brandied cherries (or 2 cups large pitted cherries)

Preheat the oven to 175’C (350F).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition, then the vanilla extract. Sift the dry ingredients together. Fold it into the butter mixture, followed by the brandied cherries. Spread the batter into a greased and lined 10-inch round cake pan. Bake for around 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

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Gingertown population explosion

(Gingerbread Men)

Latest figures reveal increased population density in Gingertown!
Dec 12th – 12:33pm

Every year around December, the spotlight is cast on Gingertown as it becomes the centre of an unprecedented population explosion. Experts are at a loss to explain this phenomenon but scientists believe it is due largely in part to a greater influx of imports from nearby Spicetown and immigration via the Sea of Molasses. Last week a press conference was held by the Mayor of Gingertown. In response to the question of whether the town would be able to cope with the recent boom in demand for real estate and public icing facilities, he was been quoted as saying, “Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles”. A festival celebrating this annual event is slated for the 25th of this month. Stay tuned for details.

Gingerbread Men :
(from Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

425g (15 oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
180g (6.25 oz) dark brown sugar
170g (6 oz) unsalted butter
160g (5.5 oz) unsulfured molasses
1 large egg

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices, then whisk together to mix evenly.

In a food processor with the metal blade, process the brown sugar until fine. Cut the butter into a few pieces and add it with the motor running. Process until smooth and creamy. Add the molasses and egg and process until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and pulse in just until the dough begins to clump together. Wrap the dough well and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175’C (350 F).

Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use gingerbread cutters to cut out the dough. If desired, make holes for hanging, either at the tops or hands, using the blunt edge of a wooden skewer. Bake the cookies on greaseproof lined trays for 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch and just beginning to colour around the edges. Cool the cookies completely before icing.

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